Wireless & Cable Industries Fight Net Neutrality With Laughably Misleading Op-Eds & Video

When this is the best face that the wireless industry can put on its anti-neutrality case, it's in trouble. See the video below if you don't believe us.

When this is the best face that the wireless industry can put on its anti-neutrality case, it’s in trouble. See the video below if you don’t believe us.

Yesterday, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler confirmed that he intends to have the Commission reclassify broadband as the vital piece of telecommunications infrastructure that it is, which has resulted in immediate backlash from the wireless and cable industry and the handful of astroturfed “advocacy” organizations they support.

First up is former FCC Chair-turned-cable industry leader Michael “Pow Pow” Powell, who penned this risible op-ed piece for USA Today.

Let’s pull out some choice quotes and test them for honesty:

Of the push to reclassify broadband, Powell — who now heads the National Cable Telecommunications Association — writes that it “puts governments, and not consumers, at the center of Internet policy.”

At what point have consumers ever been “at the center of Internet policy”?

• Did consumers pay politicians millions of dollars to urge regulators to keep broadband classified as nothing more than a content delivery system? No, that was the cable and telecom industries.

• Did consumers sue the FCC — and then invest millions in a four-year legal fight — to gut the 2010 net neutrality rules? No, that was Verizon.

• Did consumers demand that Internet Service Providers be allowed to create “fast lanes” so that Verizon, Time Warner Cable and others could charge a premium to large companies for better service? Nope, wasn’t us. Must have been the mammoth telecom and cable companies that can benefit from it.

So when Powell says that “consumers” should be at the center of Internet policy, he actually means “Verizon and other NCTA members.”

Moving on. Powell repeatedly makes reference to “government-run” networks, implying that the federal government is somehow taking over control of the broadband industry.

But that’s flat-out misleading, intended purely to inflame. The FCC and the government is not “running” the Internet. This is not municipal broadband; we won’t be getting Internet service through the government.

Powell goes even further with his misdirection by claiming that “most government networks are underwater financially,” citing a study on municipal broadband, which again is entirely different from reclassifying broadband as Title II.

“Public utility rules would bring a new era of pricing regulation,” writes Powell, without providing a shred of evidence to support his claim, “government dictates on matters big and small and hundreds of pages of other inapt rules.”

And of course Powell pulls out the biggest lie that the telecom and cable industries keep repeating — that there is no need for the FCC to reclassify broadband in order to obtain net neutrality.

“The courts have made clear that the FCC can do this using its existing, more modern regulatory powers,” he explains, completely misstating the ruling of the federal appeals court that gutted the 2010 neutrality rules a year ago.

In fact, that court made it quite clear that the only way in which the FCC could impose those 2010 neutrality rules would be through reclassification or by Congress granting the Commission the authority to do so.

The court did allow that the consideration of fast lanes in certain circumstances might be a way for the FCC to create neutrality rules that might pass legal muster without reclassification. But by including fast lanes, the Commission would be forever abandoning the idea of a truly neutral Internet.

Enough of Powell. Let’s get to this video [via DSLreports] — produced by wireless trade powerhouse CTIA — which predates Wheeler’s announcement but which hits on the wireless industry’s main oppositions to Title II:

First, let’s all acknowledge that hiring an actor with Conan O’Brien’s hair, Julian Edelman’s playoff beard, and who looks like he was just rousted out of bed after a four-day bender is maybe not the best face to put on your talking points.

The supposed interviewer stops one man on the street and tells him that the reason his phone is so much faster today than it was a few years ago is because of all the billions of dollars the wireless industry spent since 2010. He then tells the man that may all be in jeopardy if wireless broadband is reclassified.

What he fails to address is that full net neutrality was in place during the very years he’s talking about.

It’s not like all that investment only occurred in the year since the appeals court ruling on neutrality. And it’s not like the neutrality rules were stayed during the years in which the Verizon suit was being appealed. The rules were in place and investment occurred.

The host also makes that claim that sponsored data programs — like T-Mobile’s deal that doesn’t count certain streaming music services against a user’s monthly data allotment — will be banned under reclassification.

Again, not entirely true. Yes, there are some who believe that sponsored data runs afoul of neutrality rules, but it’s an arguable point, as the wireless provider is not doing anything to prioritize access to that service’s network; you’re just not being charged for it. A more clear violation of neutrality would be if T-Mobile were actively making Pandora and other participating services easier to access or throttling their competition.

It’s an issue that will most certainly be debated in years to come, but is nowhere near as cut and dry as the CTIA wants you to believe.

“Wireless is decidedly not a road, an electrical grid, or a water supply,” says the host of the video.

He’s right. Wireless is also not a shirt, a boat, a bird, or a dinner plate. He’s making a reductive argument that doesn’t acknowledge current day realities. You’ll notice that the video doesn’t say that wireless is decidedly different from landlines, which are a utility that cellphones are quickly replacing.

Nearly half the nation’s homes are wireless-only, and that number is only going to increase in the coming years, as 66% of those between the ages of 25-29 no longer have landlines. Meanwhile, the CTIA’s biggest members — Verizon and AT&T — are looking to replace landline service with wireless technology.

Of course, the telecom industry has a history of trying to have it both ways when it comes to wireless regulation, like AT&T claiming its wireless service can’t be sued by the FTC because it’s a Title II telephone service provider, while at the same time arguing that wireless is not a common carrier and thus can not be regulated under Title II.

And let’s not forget that the only reason Wheeler is trying to reclassify broadband is because Verizon sued.

There was no need to reclassify under the old rules. But when Verizon convinced the court to gut the 2010 rules, the FCC was left with three options: Let the telecom and cable industries run rampant; allow Verizon to dictate Internet policy through the court system by introducing weak-kneed neutrality rules; or reclassify.

The telecom industry has no one but itself to blame for Title II reclassification.