In a bizarre, fawning letter, Oracle has given America's broadband watchdog, the FCC, the equivalent of a telco reach-around.
The letter [PDF] from Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz's office, and signed by senior VP Kenneth Glueck, appears to have been written solely to praise FCC chairman Ajit Pai and his recent actions: a situation made all the more bizarre by the fact that Oracle has nothing to do with the decisions it praises.
"We are optimistic that the FCC under your leadership will take a different approach and are encouraged by the actions you have already taken to date," the March 13 letter says, leaning forward for a kiss. "We look forward to working with you to reset America's technology policy in a new pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-American leadership direction."
In particular, it congratulates Pai for killing off new privacy rules on ISPs that were due to take effect earlier this month, and for shutting down the effort to force cable companies to open up cable boxes to third parties. It also sides fiercely with Pai in criticizing net neutrality rules, in particular the decision to designate ISPs as so-called Title II carriers.
Quite why Oracle has decided to side so heavily with the ISP industry when it has virtually nothing to do with its business is something of a head-scratcher. And the vehemence of the argument makes it that much weirder.
On the effort to open up cable boxes, for example, it argues: "Adopting a technology mandate to force 'competitive' set-top boxes in 2017 feels a lot like mandating automakers to install 8-track cassette players in 2017."
Except it doesn't. Not by anyone. And why does Oracle care about cable boxes anyway?
Wheels on fire
The answer may come in the fact that the letter is also unnecessarily critical of Pai's predecessor, Tom Wheeler.
"The FCC under Chairman Wheeler routinely picked winners and losers in the complex and converging network ecosystem," it spits, later noting: "The Wheeler FCC's characterization of ISPs as gatekeepers was entirely outdated, especially when more than two-thirds of global computing power is mobile today."
Then later: "The Wheeler FCC took the extraordinary step of subjecting a flourishing 21st century network technology to a sprawling regulatory framework designed for the old telephone monopoly – all in service of imposing a maximalist version of 'net neutrality'."
Not that the letter doesn't make some fair points – and ones that we at The Register have consistently made when it comes to some of the decisions made by the FCC under Wheeler's reign: its use of arcane legislation to reach a desired goal; its clear bias for the viewpoints of companies like Google; its recognition that the regulatory structure as it currently stands is not designed for the modern, user-centric technological world.
But it is highly unusual for a large corporation to write such a fervent letter, praising one individual to high heaven and condemning their predecessor, especially when the topic has little or nothing to do with their business.
What next? Apple taking out an ad to complain about gun rights? Intel forcefully pushing its views on healthcare reform?
All about Trump
The only logical explanation is that the letter is another indicator of the weird new praise-lobbying that is becoming increasingly common in the early days of Trumpism.
Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz sits on President Trump's tech team and is serving as an advisor to him (something that a lot of Oracle employees are not happy about). It seems that one easy way of buying currency with the president these days is to wildly praise whatever he agrees with and fiercely condemn anything he doesn't.
Why does Catz need some Trump currency? Probably something to do with being sued by the US government over discrimination; a situation that puts some very valuable contracts at risk. Or maybe the fact that it is laying off employees (and lying about it), when the one thing guaranteed to give Trump a hard-on is a company saying it will hire more Americans.
Either way, the fact that the chair of the FCC is being pulled into this circus does not bode well for him or telecom policy. ®