All of those Americans who are fighting or rather supporting online net neutrality laws will soon find that their voices don’t really count for anything.
Perhaps we said something harsh there.
What Americans needs to understand here is, the FCC doesn’t give their voice much weight.
And that’s not a good thing or is it?
Besides, Americans who use their computer machines to surf the internet on a daily basis truly consider net neutrality rules as important.
These issues are actually very popular among that portion of the American population.
That is also precisely the reason why people, in their millions, poured in their comments that supported the existing strict regulation of all US internet service providers when the Federal Communications Commission initiated deliberations on all possible net neutrality rules in the year 2015 and 2014.
Back then, the public opinion held great power.
At least it helped to push the Federal Communications Commission to actually adopt new rules which would prevent internet service providers from throttling and/or blocking internet content.
It also blocks internet service providers from charging more for certain websites.
And of course, it prevented them from giving priority treatment to other online services on their network as well.
Needless to say that the public opinion on the issue of net neutrality rules has not really changed much.
Especially if we are talking about the last couple of years.
Or a little more than two years.
This (two years) is also the amount of time these net neutrality rules have existed on the US law books.
In fact, when the US cable lobby held a survey of registered voters in the country, they found something interesting.
They found that people still continued to support net neutrality rules.
That meant, that the American people still wanted their government people to ban questionable internet service provider practices such as,
- Paid prioritization
But that isn’t all.
We don’t really need to take the results of some cable lobby survey to know what’s the real deal.
Multiple other polls in the US have found the same.
Moreover, they have also found that net neutrality rules are equally popular among both Republican as well as Democratic voters.
Hence no one should find it shocking or even surprising that people the FCC had to face a huge backlash for trying to change net neutrality rules.
Perhaps we should say that the FCC Chairman Ajit Pae had to face a huge backlash.
Let’s get even more specific and say that Ajit Pai’s evil plan to get rid of all net neutrality rules faced a massive backlash.
But let’s show some honesty here.
There is no doubt about the fact that the large majority of the 22 million public comments on Ajith’s plan constituted spam.
Or form letters.
But get this:
A study that the broadband industry funded found that around 98.5 percent, a vast majority, of the unique comments still supported existing net neutrality rules.
We also know that net neutrality supports are strong supporters.
In that, they don’t just submit their comments.
They take action.
And action they took.
By organizing a net neutrality supports Action day in July.
Net neutrality supporters titled the protest as Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.
As before, that is not all.
Various media reports say that net neutrality supports have actually planned more protests.
They will launch these protests in the coming days.
Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, the final vote on net neutrality rules will also draw very near in the coming days.
The problem facing net neutrality supporters is indeed formidable.
It is formidable in the sense that plenty of influential and rather vocal people oppose them.
Hence, net neutrality rules do have to contend with those strong opponents.
Who are these opponents?
And how strong are they?
Well, first up we have one of the most prominent anti-net neutrality rules supporters in Republican regulators.
And of course, politicians.
Then you have to add to that list other players such as conservative think tanks.
And while we are at it let’s not forget internet service providers who really have the biggest stake in this.
Because they are the ones who will have to follow the net neutrality rules if they stay.
If there aren’t any net neutrality rules then, of course, internet service providers won’t have to follow them.
That’s just how they work.
These strong opponents have another thing going for him:
They have a strong influence over the Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Ajit Pai.
In fact, some media reports believe that these voices are exactly the ones that convinced Ajit of his plan.
Or let’s say his proposal and/or decision to eliminate all popular net neutrality and basic consumer protection rules and regulations.
If you want to take a look at Ajit Pai’s full proposal you can click here.
A Commission vote will take place on December 14 on the issue and most believe it will approve Ajith’s proposal.
FCC Officials Actually Believe That They Can Dismiss Public Comments
And they explained how that works as well.
Let’s talk about that.
Recently a rather senior Federal Communications Commission official addresses reporters in the media.
The FCC official also talked about Ajit Pai’s proposal.
In other words, his anti-net neutrality plan.
The official gave his thoughts via a phone briefing which took place a couple of days ago.
During that briefing, the official explained why the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t give much weight to public comments.
More precisely though, the official explained that public opinion could not sway the FCC on issues such as net neutrality.
As mentioned before, the major portion of all public comments consisted of, what everybody calls, form letters.
These actually came from both anti-net neutrality groups as well as pro-net neutrality groups.
As expected, these form letter comments didn’t introduce anything new to the conversation in terms of facts.
Hence, the record remained the same.
These form letter public comments also did not make any serious legal arguments.
This is what the FCC official from Ajit Pai’s office told reporters via the phone briefing.
Generally speaking, the majority of the comments made assertions and/or stated opinions.
That the FCC can’t use those very well.
Because of that, these public comments didn’t have any meaningful bearing on Ajit Pai’s net neutrality decision.
This is also what the official told reporters via the telephone briefing a couple of days ago.
So who is the official that we keep referring to here?
Well, no candy for you here.
In other words, the FCC official decided to speak with the media reporters on one condition:
The condition of anonymity.
The FCC official did not want the media to report his name.
Moreover, he also stipulated that reports could paraphrase his comments.
And not quote them directly.
The FCC official also made a note of the fact that the FCC found many of the public comments as fraudulent.
He also stated that the FCC found that about 7.5 million of the public comments had the same content.
And these identical comments came from just 45,000 unique addresses and names.
Apparently because of some scammer or scammers who repeatedly did the same thing:
Submitted comments that had the same content but under different names.
Or rather a series of names.
What is the message here then?
The message is quite clear actually.
If we believe what the FCC official told media reports over the phone, then a huge percentage of all public comments had nothing but junk in them.
Hence, the FCC safely ignored them.
But here is the thing:
Why on earth did people fill the docket with these spammy comments?
Well, part of the reason is that the Federal Communications Commission didn’t take any significant steps to stop it.
Maybe they wanted someone to spam the public comments so that they could ignore it with plausibility.
According to some media reporters, the FCC should have take steps to block or at least prevent fraud.
Moreover, we also know that the FCC didn’t even delete those public comments which obviously looked fraud from their record.
This basically allowed people to fill the docket with junk comments.
And perhaps it also helped the FCC as it helped it to ignore these comments.
More precisely, the junk comments made it easier for Ajit Pai and his office to argue that most of the public comments didn’t have anything useful.
And therefore, the public should see these comments devoid of anything that they could consider a legitimate expression of the US public’s opinion.
The other interesting thing is that Ajit Pai has not, so far, provided evidence for any investigation that the organization carried out into fraudulent public comments.
In fact, they have refused to show any evidence at all.
General Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney, said the same yesterday.
In this comment, Schneiderman pointed towards a massive scheme which fraudulently made use of real US citizens’ identified.
For what purpose?
Well, according to Schneiderman, to drown out the legitimate views of the real US people and US businesses.
Does The FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Even Like Public Opinion?
But only when the public opinion finally comes around to agreeing with him.
The thing with US laws is that they don’t really force the FCC to obey anything.
Let’s rephrase that bit.
The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t really need to follow any public opinion.
The law doesn’t require that from the FCC.
But media reports say that Ajit Pai does tend to favorably cite public opinion.
As mentioned before, he does that only when it suits his goals.
Let’s take the net neutrality rules issue as the case in point.
Ajit Pai along with his FCC staff have consistently stated that they would actually consider public comments.
But only their quality.
Not their quantity.
Moreover, they would do the same for both sides of the argument.
Yet, Ajit’s actions say something else.
In other words, when Pai took the recent decision to eliminate yet another net neutrality regulation, he exercised the opposite of what he preached.
Before a recent vote on the issue, Ajit Pai told the media that the overwhelming, or the vast, majority of the US public input actually favored the FCC’s proposal.
All the while, he also exhorted his fellow commissioners to go ahead and eliminate an old rule.
This old rule, about a decade old, required from radio and TV stations to maintain their studios in the very local communities that they served.
We also know that Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat and the FCC commissioner urged the Federal Communications Commission to actually hold a public hearing.
She wanted the FCC to hold them across the country before the organization would go ahead and eliminate net neutrality rules.
She also argued that she considered public hearing necessary.
Because otherwise, the FCC could not get the US citizens’ opinion due to impersonations, spam bots and other online problems that marred the organization’s docket.
Rosenworcel also stated a couple of days ago that she had called for public hearing before the FCC could apply any changes to the existing rules.
She said that this was some Democratic, as well as Republican commissions, had done in the past as well.
Moreover, she added, the FCC should find a way to go directly to the United States public.
Then they should find out what the American public thinks about the anti-net neutrality proposal before the FCC goes through the vote that is likely to damage net neutrality.
All Comments Are Not Equal.
To put it another way, some comments count more than other comments.
As we have mentioned before, a staffer from Ajit Pai’s office did speak with media reporters.
While talking to them, he acknowledged the fact that both sides of the argument had presented legitimate comments in the organization’s net neutrality docket.
The FCC official also said that Ajit Pai’s draft order consisted of the Federal Communications Commission comprehensively addressing all the legitimate and serious comments that made good legal and factual arguments.
So what does Ajit Pai’s draft order say?
It should come as a surprise to no one that Ajit Pai’s order is in favor of all the research in the organization’s docket that supports Ajit Pai’s claim.
What is that claim?
The claim is that US broadband network investment actually fell.
Because of net neutrality laws.
Or more correctly, as a result of these net neutrality laws.
Ajit’s proposal does another thing very well:
Criticize studies that managed to find evidence that supported the other side of the argument.
Ajit’s proposal actually said that net neutrality supports used methods that the organization thought would not yield results.
The proposal also talked about other problems that existed in comments that went in favor of net neutrality laws.
But here is the weird thing:
Internet service providers themselves told investors that net neutrality rules didn’t really harm their related network investments.
But Pai didn’t let that sway him either.
And that is indeed significant.
Because all US publicly traded companies must, by law, give their investors accurate and correct financial information.
This information includes a real description of the involved risk factors while investing in the related company.
But there is another form of public opinion.
Or another expression of it.
It basically comes as complaints that consumers have filed against their online internet service providers.
No way said the FCC.
In other words, the organization, in the beginning, actually refused to share, or release, the actual text of those complaints.
For readers who don’t know, these complaints went well over tens of thousands in number.
We also know that US consumer advocacy groups required just a little bit more time in order to properly review those consumer complaints.
This would have allowed them to submit comprehensive analyses into the FCC’s net neutrality docket.
Let’s give FCC the kudos for releasing just a bit more of them.
But it did release the big documents exactly one day before the official deadline for the US public to make a comment.
That sounds like the FCC didn’t want people opposing its anti-net neutrality plan.