By now you’ve probably noticed that FCC boss Ajit Pai isn’t particularly popular online after he voted last week to kill popular net neutrality protections. A big reason for that unpopularity is Pai’s tendency to simply make things up as he rushes to coddle broadband duopolists, whether we’re talking about his bogus claims that net neutrality killed broadband investment, his claims that net neutrality only emboldens tyrants in Iran and North Korea, or his claims that the broadband market is amazingly competitive.
So in the wake of the repeal (which of course still needs to survive legal challenge) it’s not too surprising to see Pai engaging in more blatantly false nonsense as he tries to frame net neutrality supporters as hysterical hyperbolists. For example, Pai tried to argue last week on Fox and Friendsthat net neutrality supporters were clearly wrong to worry about the repeal because Twitter and Facebook still worked the day after the repeal:
To try and gather support for his extremely unpopular plan, Pai’s been throwing some red meat to the base by framing net neutrality concerns as the domain of out of touch Hollywood elites, despite the fact the rules have broad, bipartisan support. As such, Pai took particular aim at comments made by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, claiming he was foolish to worry about the repeal since social media websites still worked the day after the FCC voted 3-2 to kill the rules:
“He’s getting everything wrong about it,” Pai said of Kimmel. “The free and open internet we had prior to 2015 is the one we’re going to have going forward. And that kind of name-calling and hysteria is disappointing, but it’s not surprising.”
Pai went on to say that Kimmel and others were “proven wrong” by the fact that internet service providers (ISP) had not rolled out immediate changes Friday morning.
“Those who have said the internet as we know it is about to end have been proven wrong starting this morning,” Pai said, “as people send emails, check on their Twitter accounts, post on Facebook, and the like.”
But this is either an outright lie, or Pai honestly doesn’t know how his own agency even works. While the FCC voted to repeal the rules last week, the repeal itself doesn’t take effect until sixty days after the repeal hits the federal register, which doesn’t even happen until January. Even then, we’ve made it abundantly clear that ISPs will likely remain on their best behavior for a year or so. Why? They’ll want to portray net neutrality advocates as hysterical chicken littles. They also won’t want to provide any ammunition for the looming lawsuits against the FCC’s repeal.
It’s only once ISPs secure a court victory that you’ll see their true colors emerge. And even then, if they’re too heavy handed they risk future FCCs simply passing new rules down the road. That’s why you’re going to see a concerted ISP push for a new net neutrality law starting in the new year. One that professes to “fix” the problem, but is so loophole-filled as to be effectively useless. Its one real purpose? To prevent any future FCCs from re-passing tough net neutrality protections. It will be an attempt to codify regulatory apathy into law.
Even then ISPs aren’t likely to block websites outright. In large part because there’s a universe of more subtle ways that they can abuse the lack of adult regulatory oversight and limited competition to minimize press and public backlash, whether that’s fiddling with interconnection points to drive up costs for transit and content companies, or expanding arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees to drive up the cost of cutting the cord.
And there’s a universe of “creative” bad behavior these ISPs haven’t even thought of yet. Again, it’s important to understand that the Trump administration’s plan here isn’t just gutting net neutrality. The plan is to gut FCC, FTC and state oversight of some of the least-competitive companies in America almost entirely. With neither competition nor adult regulatory federal or state supervision in place to protect users, the resulting damage won’t be subtle. If you’ve watched Comcast and AT&T do business for the last fifteen years, we’re pretty sure you won’t miss the bad behavior once it actually starts.