The FCC Tried To Hide Net Neutrality Complaints Against ISPs | Spanlish


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The FCC Tried To Hide Net Neutrality Complaints Against ISPs

When FCC boss Ajit Pai first proposed killing popular net neutrality protections (pdf), he insisted he would proceed "in a far more transparent way than the FCC did" when it first crafted the rules in 2015. That promise has proven to be a historically-hollow one.

Pai's agency is already facing numerous lawsuits for refusing to disclose conversations with ISP lobbyists about the plan to kill net neutrality, refusing to disclose net neutrality complaints filed with the agency, refusing to be transparent about a DDoS attack the FCC apparently concocted to downplay the "John Oliver effect," and for ignoring FOIA requests related to its failure to police website comment fraud during the public comment period.

You'll recall that time and time again, Pai and friends have tried to claim that net neutrality isn't a real problem, and that the harms created by letting giants like AT&T and Comcast run roughshod over an uncompetitive broadband sector are largely hallucinated. As such, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request back in May to obtain the 45,000 consumer net neutrality complaints filed since the rules took effect in 2015, arguing that they might just prove useful to the conversation given the FCC's claim that net neutrality isn't a real problem.

Initially the FCC spent much of this year stalling in the release of the complaints, insisting that making them public would be too "burdensome" for agency staff. After growing legal and public pressure, the FCC finally released upwards of 60,000 pages-worth of complaints by consumers who say their ISP behaved anti-competitively in violation net neutrality. But the agency is still refusing to include these complaints in the net neutrality proceeding docket, and refuses to include details on how ISPs responded to these complaints in the docket either:

"The FCC has not produced any additional documents since we filed an Application for Review [on November 14]," NHMC Special Policy Advisor Gloria Tristani told Ars today. Besides carrier responses, "we are missing other documents as well, such as attachments to consumer complaints, consumer rebuttals, etc." The FCC has not explained why it didn't provide those documents, according to the NHMC."

Again, this appears to be par for the course for this FCC. It's fairly clear by now the FCC refused to do anything about the fraud during the comment period because it believed that raising questions about the validity of the comment process would help downplay the massive public opposition to its plan. Similarly, refusing to include real consumer net neutrality complaints in the docket helps prop up Ajit Pai's patently-false claim that net neutrality (which again, is just a symptom of a lack of competition in broadband) isn't a real problem. It's the same MO, repeated over and over and over again.

Needless to say, this entire process has been raising the hackles of fellow agency Commissioners that actually believe that the lack of competition in the broadband market is a real thing:

Other Commissioners have noted how the difficulty in getting this FCC to release these complaints is just one small part of an overall culture of dysfunction and non-transparency at Trump's FCC. Pai's fellow FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, for example, issued a statement (pdf) pointing out how between the NY's investigation of fraudulent comments, the GAO's investigation of the FCC's alleged DDoS attack, and all the lawsuits already dogging the agency, the FCC should most assuredly slow its roll a little bit:

"Distressingly, the FCC has been unwilling to assist a law enforcement investigation into some of these problems. That’s unacceptable. The FCC needs to correct this course immediately. The integrity of our process is at stake. The future of the Internet is at stake. Until we get to the bottom of this, no vote should take place until a responsible investigation—like that in New York—is complete."

Of course the FCC has absolutely zero intention of delaying its December 14 vote to kill net neutrality, because that's precisely what it promised giant ISPs they'd do. And, after all, failing to live up to your promise to sector lobbyists would most certainly indicate an overall lack of integrity at the current FCC, and we certainly wouldn't want that.

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