Publicity Fears Will Keep Broadband Providers In Line, FCC Republican Claims

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to allow broadband providers to censor web sites, slow down traffic and charge companies higher fees for faster delivery of their material.

The decision is wildly unpopular with organizations too numerous to count, including consumer groups, online publishers, computer engineers like World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, civil rights organizations, city mayors, lawmakers and even libraries. The opponents raised many issues, not least of which is that it's problematic to allow monopoly broadband providers to control people's access to web content.

The Republicans on the agency dismissed all concerns, insisting that deregulation was preferable to rules against censorship.

FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly went so far as to say that fears of bad publicity would keep broadband providers from blocking or throttling content -- as if the most hated companies in America have ever cared about their reputations.

Certainly they have not previously managed their networks in ways that suggest a priority on public relations. Consider broadband providers' history of questionable activity: Until 2014, AT&T drastically slowed the mobile broadband service of consumers who thought they had paid for unlimited data. In 2012, Verizon was fined by the FCC for taking steps to prevent people from using tethering apps. That same year, AT&T said it was going to disable Apple's video chat app FaceTime on the 3G network, unless people purchased a then-new "shared data" plan.

Ten years ago, Comcast was caught throttling BitTorrent traffic. The company initially denied doing so, but later said the slowdowns were needed to manage traffic. The company's explanation didn't carry much water with the FCC, which in 2008 -- under Republican leadership -- imposed sanctions. Comcast later convinced a court to vacate the sanctions.

Opponents of today's vote are already planning their next move. They have vowed to challenge the repeal in court and Congress. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said he plans to introduce a resolution to revoke today's vote under the Congressional Review Act. That law -- which was rarely used prior to this year -- allows Congress to repeal recent regulations passed by agencies.

Earlier this year, lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act to vacate the Obama-era FCC's privacy rules, which would have required broadband carriers to obtain users' opt-in consent before drawing on their web browsing activity for ad targeting.

1 comment about "Publicity Fears Will Keep Broadband Providers In Line, FCC Republican Claims".
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  1. Jeff Martin from IMF, December 15, 2017 at 12:52 p.m.

    "The decision is wildly unpopular with organizations too numerous to count"
    and also wildly popular with other organizations too numerous to count.

    The last administration's "solution" was one that was looking for a problem.

    Forbes points this out very well:

    ... a bi-partisan consensus of Congress, the White House and the FCC stayed out of the Internet regulation business, following the command of a 1996 law to encourage broadband deployment by leaving it “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”

    The results speak for themselves, including trillions of dollars of new economic value, much of it  built by U.S.-based Internet companies.

    Throughout that time, there were, contrary to popular myth, no enforceable net neutrality rules.  The FCC did not police ISP network management practices, or prohibit specific conduct.

    In what way does it make any sense that the more you use of something the more you don't pay?

    Bigger tube of toothpaste - costs more.
    An XL pizza - costs more.
    A longer Uber/Lyft ride - costs more.
    20, 30, 50+ gigs of broadband usage on your cell phone plan - costs more.

    Why is broadband any different?

    Video content is enourmous in data size and we will consume more and more of it over the Internet. Cisco says by 2019 80% of the world's internet traffic will be video.

    So should Google, Amazon, Facebook, Walmart, etc. pay more when they use more in streaming to the tune of 80% of the world's internet traffic, for example?

    To the argument of competition in a free market not being the answer, again from Forbes:

    Prior to 2015, the FTC pursued over a hundred complaints against ISPs and others in the Internet ecosystem.

    In fact, the 2015 Order explicitly cut off the FTC’s jurisdiction over broadband companies, one of the many negative side-effects Pai’s proposal would reverse.

    Also, it would be good to understand what cities/municaplities have done to keep competition out. For example, have they created a toxic tax environment that discouranges other companies from coming in to invest?

    All local problems can be solved, locally.

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