FCC Boss Lies Again, Insists Net Neutrality Harms The Sick And Disabled | Spanlish

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

FCC Boss Lies Again, Insists Net Neutrality Harms The Sick And Disabled

For a decade now one major ISP talking point against net neutrality is that it hurts the sick and disabled. Verizon, for example, has tried to pretend that net neutrality rules hurt the hearing impaired because it prevents them from getting access to prioritized medical services like video relay or other technologies. Comcast has frequently trotted out this argument as well, as in an FCC filing (pdf) earlier this year claiming that net neutrality rules simply must die because they're preventing the sick and disabled from getting access to advanced telemedicine technologies:

"...the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public. For example, a telepresence service tailored for the hearing impaired requires high-definition video that is of sufficiently reliable quality to permit users “to perceive subtle hand and finger motions” in real time. And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it."

You may be shocked to learn that this isn't, nor has it ever been, true. Both the discarded 2010 rules, and the 2015 rules, carve out mammoth, tractor-trailer-sized exemptions for medical services. In the 2015 rules, the FCC was careful to distinguish between "Broadband Internet Access Services (BIAS)" (generalized internet traffic like browsing and app data) and "Non-BIAS data services," which are often given prioritized, isolated capacity to ensure lower latency, better speed, and greater reliability. VoIP services, pace makers, energy meters and all telemedicine applications fall under this category and are exempt from the rules.

You'll be equally shocked to learn that this has nothing to do with helping the sick -- and everything to do with making more money. ISPs want to eliminate the paid prioritization restrictions so they can sell content and service companies an unfair advantage in the market. Deals that give industry giants prioritization, optimal routing and the lowest latency, while startups, non-profits and educational institutions sit twiddling their thumbs at a notable disadvantage. This goal is precisely why Comcast is already walking back its promises on this front as repeal nears.

You'd think, as FCC Boss so immensely familiar with the rules he's so eager to dismantle, that Ajit Pai would realize that the claim that net neutrality hurts the sick is a dated and grotesque bit of scare mongering. Yet last week, as he tried to defend himself from massive criticism that he was selling out consumers and the health of the internet, Pai gave yet another speech (pdf) during which he doubled down on the idea:

"By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization -- such as latency-sensitive telemedicine. By replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors."

Again: there is no "outright ban," and the rules clearly already carve out giant holes for this traffic. Not to be outdone, this claim that killing net neutrality magically helps the sick was also included in the FCC's facts-optional fact sheet (pdf) it circulated last week to "set the record straight":

"FACT: Restoring Internet freedom will lead to better, faster, and cheaper broadband for consumers and give startups that need priority access (such as telehealth applications) the chance to offer new services to consumers."

But again, nothing in the rules stopped this from happening already, meaning that Pai once again feels the need to lie about something that can be fact-checked by anybody willing to spend a little time actually reading the 2015 rules (pdf). Of course when you're pushing what's potentially the most despised bit of tech policy kerfuffle since SOPA with little to no support from the actual public, manufactured bogeymen are apparently all that's left to fall back on.



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