Killing Net Neutrality Rules Did Far More Harm Than You Probably Realize

Interesting article that I wanted to share:

Killing Net Neutrality Rules Did Far More Harm Than You Probably Realize

We’ve noted repeatedly that the repeal of net neutrality did far more than just kill popular net neutrality rules. It effectively neutered the FCC’s ability to do its job and oversee lumbering natural telecom monopolies. And, contrary to the claims of the telecom lobby, it threw any remaining authority to an FTC that lacks the resources or authority to do the job either. In short the repeal gave loathed telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T carte blanche to do pretty much anything they’d like to their captive customer bases, provided they’re marginally clever about it.

Here’s one case in point: the previous FCC had passed some fairly basic rules requiring that ISPs be transparent about the kind of connection you’re buying. As in, ISPs were required to not only inform you what kind of throttling or restrictions were on your line, but they were supposed to make it clear how many hidden fees you’d pay post sale. With those rules dead, the FCC’s process now basically involves you complaining to the Ajit Pai FCC, and the agency doing jack shit about it. Under Pai’s model, ISPs are allowed to bullshit you all they’d like in terms of caps, throttling, and other limits, as long as their bullshit is hidden somewhere in their website. And even that’s not likely to be enforced:

And here’s where it gets even worse: ISPs aren’t actually required to display this information on their own websites, even though doing so apparently offers the advantage of being able to obscure it under a mountain of Lorem Ipsum-esque self-laudatory text. Companies may also submit their “transparency disclosures” directly to the FCC.

But whereas the Open Internet Order—the now-repealed FCC rules that established net neutrality—required ISPs to offer consumers quick access to information in a format that’s easy to digest, the method devised by Chairman Pai all but ensures that some consumers will never find it.

Another case in point from last week. Customers of Frontier Communications have been complaining that the company continues to charge them a $10 router rental fee every month, even when they own their own router. Customers who complain to the FCC are basically being told there’s nothing the FCC can do:

Son filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission; Frontier responded to the complaint but stuck to its position that he has to pay the fee. A voicemail that Frontier left with Son and his wife said the company informed the FCC that "the router monthly charge is an applicable fee, and it will continue to be billed.

The FCC complaints team told Son in an email, "We reviewed the provider’s response and based on the information submitted, we believe your provider has responded to your concerns." With FCC Chairman Ajit Pai having deregulated the broadband industry, there’s little to no chance of the commission taking action to stop fees like the one charged by Frontier.

Take a moment to understand that. An ISP decided to charge a consumer a $10 per month router rental fee, despite the fact the customer paid $200 to own that router. When they complained to the FCC, the agency told the consumer it was no big deal and refused to help. This is life now under Ajit Pai. And when lumbering apathetic ISPs have neither competition nor competent regulatory oversight to keep them in line, they simply double down on bad behavior, knowing there’s zero repercussion. Again, zero accountability was the entire point of the whole lobbying gambit.

Here’s where telecom lobbyists and Ajit Pai claimed the FTC would "step in to protect consumers." But they always knew that was bullshit. The FTC’s regulatory enforcement behavior is very clearly limited only to acts that are clearly "deceptive." When an ISP is looking you straight in the eye and telling you you’re being screwed, there’s technically nothing deceptive going on:

Even in instances where the FTC technically could act, the telecom lobby knew they’d be so inundated with other obligations (everything from monitoring accuracy in bleach labeling to policing cramming fraud), they’d take years to tackle issues–if they acted at all. The telecom lobby, in effect, told the government to neuter oversight of one of the most problematic sectors in tech, kneecapping an agency (the FCC) built specifically to monitor the sector, and the government thought that was a wonderful idea. Unless you’re an inhalant addict you should probably be able to see why this could be problematic longer term.

Both examples above clearly showcase how repealing net neutrality rules will impact much more than net neutrality. And anybody still arguing that killing net neutrality rules didn’t matter because the internet didn’t explode (still a common refrain in some quarters), is either arguing in bad faith, doesn’t understand the unique fuckery of the telecom sector, or simply has no damn idea what they’re talking about.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

via Techdirt

Comments are closed.