By now the FCC has made it clear it has absolutely no intention of actually listening to the public or to experts when it comes to its plan to repeal popular net neutrality rules later this week.
It doesn't really matter to the FCC's myopic majority that the vast majority of the record 22 million public comments on its plan think it's a stupid idea. It apparently doesn't matter than over 800 startups have warned the FCC that its attack on the rules undermines innovation, competition, and the health of the internet. And it certainly doesn't appear to matter than over 190 academics, engineers, and tech-policy experts have told the agency that its repeal will dramatically harm the internet -- or that the FCC's justifications for the reversal make no technical or engineering sense.
If the current FCC was actually capable of hearing these dissenting expert voices, they'd probably find this new letter from 21 of them worth a look. You might recognize some of the authors. They include Internet Protocol co-inventor Vint Cerf, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, several designers of the Domain Name System (DNS), World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, public-key cryptography inventors Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, and more.
In their letter, they effectively argue that the FCC's entire rationale for dismantling net neutrality protections rests on a flawed misunderstanding of how the internet actually operates. And worse, that the FCC has made absolutely no attempt to correct its flawed logic as this week's rule-killing vote approached:
"It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet."
Their previous, ignored warnings highlighted how the FCC's Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) includes incorrect assessments and conflation of the differences between ISPs and edge providers (Netflix, content companies), incorrect claims in the NPRM about how the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 functions, how firewalls work, and more. Instead of consulting people that actually know how the internet works in public hearings, the FCC blindly doubled down on flawed reasoning and technical inaccuracies. Why? Because ISP-driven ideological rhetoric, not facts, are driving the repeal.
The letter notes how experts aren't the only ones the FCC is ignoring. It's also blatantly ignoring the will of the public, as well as turning a blind eye to efforts to undermine the public's only opportunity to make its voice heard during the open comment period of the proceeding:
"The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately. Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.
Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system."
And again, while the FCC may be eager to ignore objective experts and the will of the public as it rushes to give VerizoCasT&T a sloppy kiss, the fact they did so will be playing a starring role in the lawsuits filed against the agency in the new year. In court the FCC will have to prove that the broadband market changed dramatically enough in two years to warrant a wholesale reversal in net neutrality policy. But critics will have plenty of ammunition in their attempts to prove the FCC engaged in "arbitrary and capricious" policy based predominately on fluff and nonsense, not hard data or engineering expertise.
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