Saturday, May 20, 2017

Net Neutrality On The Chopping Block - Thanks To Another Trump Toady

Image result for AjitPai protest images
Protesters outside Ajit Pai's home, for net neutrality and against his scrapping of Title II regs.

Two weeks ago, comedian John Oliver delivered a superb explanation of 'Title I' and 'Title II' regs in respect to the internet and how assorted spinners sought to confuse the public on net neutrality. Oliver argued that Title II regulations are designed to protect the net,  i.e.  barricade it against the sole use of private interests.

Those who missed the segment can watch it at this link:

Oliver argued the net in its current form is not broken, while noting the FCC was pushing for a 'two tier' system.  Killing net neutrality would allow private companies to go into the fast lane leaving everyone else in the slow line. To get your streaming movies or shows then might take twice as long as it does now, while higher paying corporate entities - like Comcast - speed their ads through with ease. To refresh memories, the Obama FCC - to preserve net neutrality - ceased treating the internet as an unregulated information service- instead reclassifying it as a "telecommunications service". Thereby the FCC could assert authority to regulate the net as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Oliver was so energized at the prospect of the new FCC chairman (Ajit Pai) overturning the Obama FCC rules that he provided viewers with a rapid link to enter comments at the FCC - supposedly seeking them for 120 days: 

This latest influx of viewer comments came quicker than 2 years ago, adding about 150,000 in a little more than a day . But it appears the FCC Trumpazoids anticipated it and created a account for bulk comment filings. The effect has been that commenters' requests have been getting blocked or tied up by an automated attack.  It seems that barely any have made it through, but we're expected to believe this change was made to "better handle traffic than last time".

Now we know why. According to a story yesterday in the WSJ Business & Finance section (p. B1) it is clear the FCC plans to "chip away at net neutrality". As reported, the FCC on Thursday "approved a plan to begin rolling back Obama era net neutrality rules".  This was accomplished by virtue of the 2 Repukes on the FCC panel overriding opposition from the lone Democrat to push this perfidy through.

Led by Trump  toady Ajit Pai, the FCC is now set to spend the  coming months drafting new rules that, if implemented, will slow down the net considerably for any who use DL'ing, including streaming of videos (including for Netflix and Amazon services).  Pai, like other Trump -appointed hacks (Tom Price at HHS, out to destroy Medicare, Scott Pruitt at EPA, out to destroy that agency or weaken it to the point of uselessness) is convinced the Obama era rules adopted in 2015 have "harmed the internet" by retarding investment in broad band infrastructure. 

In other words net neutrality is a no-no because it represents the continuation of "heavy handed regulation which will chill investment in a service increasingly critical to life in American society".

According to Pai, mastering the lingo of Wall Street speak (WSJ, today, p. A11), the small ISPs are being left out of the market because they can't compete with the big boys. Pai claimed he "heard from 19 small, government -owned, municipal broadband providers" who insisted that Title II regs stood in the way of their further investment. In effect, depriving hundreds of thousands living in those municipalities of accessing new services and the small ISPs from deepening their networks.

In Pai's mind the basic error of too many on the left is thinking "there is a dichotomy between the consumer and the market". No, there isn't. It's all in our imaginations - or our paranoid ideations- take you pick. According to Pai (ibid., today):

"To me, markets and market -oriented policies have delivered far more value to the consumer than pre-emptive regulation ever has."

It appears then that Pai like his FCC R-commissioners, is ignorant or oblivious to the lessons of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  That also was promised to us as the be-all 'elixir' to finally get our cable TV rates down because of increased market competition. Instead, after a few years we found (n Maryland) competition diminished and less resourceful companies moved out allowing Comcast to charge whatever it wanted.  People were furious because they'd been sold the "de-regulated bait and switch".

If Pai's arguments were really sound why not first do all he and the FCC can to make all net speeds much higher as opposed to "comparable to Estonia" as Oliver joked in his piece.  The reason is that Pai and his cronies want to slow net speeds down even more for the rest of us so that private entities, that can pay a lot more, get preferential treatment in the form of much greater speed, efficiency.

Writing in his book, The Problem of the Media, Robert McChesney had this to say (p. 51);

"The corruption in media policy making culminated in the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, arguably one of the most important pieces of U.S. legislation. The law rewrote the regulatory regime for radio, television, cable television, and satellite communication - indeed, all of electronic communication including the internet.

The operating premise of the law was that the new communications technologies - combined with increased appreciation for the genius of the market- rendered the traditional regulatory market moot.

The solution therefore was to lift regulations and ownership restrictions from commercial media and communication companies, and allow competition in the marketplace to develop, and reduce the government's role to that of protecting private property.

There was virtually no dissent whatsoever to this legislation from either party, the law sailed through both houses of congress, and was signed by a jubilant President Clinton in February, 1996. Corporate CEOs regarded it as their "Magna Carta"."

The preceding  lesson from McChesney ought to be a no-brainer for us now: not to be fooled again by the "deregulation is good for ya" banter. Fool us once, shame on them, fool us twice, shame on US.

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