Net neutrality comments close: Let the BS begin!

Everyone loves it! Everyone hates it! FCC will do whatever it wants anyway


Despite having received and bankrolled the Emprata study – which concluded that there was ballot stuffing on both sides but that whichever way you look at it, the clear sentiment is against the FCC's plan – Marsh paints things in a very different light.

"One final note on the millions of mass-produced comments ... most of those appear to us to be fraudulent. Millions of comments were generated using phony email addresses. Millions of others were generated using duplicative email or physical addresses. And still others originated overseas," she writes – ignoring the fact the same was true of comments approving of the FCC's plan.

She then misrepresents the Emprata study by arguing that "when only legitimate comments are considered, the large majority of commenters oppose Title II regulation of internet access."

There is also a strong case to be had against Marsh's assertion that only a "tiny number of alleged incidents" have occurred and there is no need for the current net neutrality regulations.

Also this week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) has announced it has a second installment of documents it received from the FCC in response to a freedom of information request. The documents show that no fewer than 47,000 consumer complaints have been filed with the FCC since the rules came into effect, arguing that their ISP has in some way violated them.

The FCC has fought for months to prevent the release of the documents, but finally handed over 7,000 pages last week and a further 13,000 pages this week. The NHMC is planning to analyze and post the documents, presumably before the FCC next meets to consider the next steps in its plan.


Not that any of this is likely to make any difference.

The chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has repeatedly made it plain that he intends to force through the repeal of Title II, regardless of what anyone says.

Pai has repeatedly recited the cable industry's talking points, has disparaged or mocked any and all opponents to his plan and advocates for the current rules, and has almost exclusively favored arguments and comments from broadband providers over everyone else – including internet companies, technology companies and millions of individual internet subscribers.

The revised version of the plan that the FCC put forward following the previous public comment period was almost embarrassing in its failure to consider any position other that the one it already espoused.

The reality is that no one expects the FCC to do anything but continue on its vague path to unraveling the current rules – and that is most clearly noticeable in the comments sent by large, savvy technology companies.

Apple's response [PDF], for example, makes no mention at all of "Title II," but defends every aspect of the rules on which that classification relies on. It notes that: "These key principles are reflected in the FCC's current rules..."

But it also knows nothing is going to stop Pai from using his position and majority on the FCC to overturn the previous rules. And so Apple says that even though everything it agrees with is already in the current rules, that it "remains open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today."

Of course, the bigger issue is what happens when Pai is out of power at the FCC. He will overturn previous chair Tom Wheeler's vision of net neutrality. If the next FCC chair is a Democrat, they will simply overturn Pai's overturning.

The only way to stop this revolving circus is for Congress to step up and develop much-needed telecom legislation that reflects the modern digital world. But with everything in Washington in such a paralyzed state of partisanship, that is a prospect that, even if it is undertaken, would probably just result in yet more noise and poor policies.

In short, we are now entering stage three of the net neutrality goat rodeo. ®


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