In a video that would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying, a senior executive at Verizon repeatedly lies about the FCC’s recently launched efforts to gut its own “net neutrality” rules, about his company’s support of net neutrality, and what these rules actually do.
In fact, in the below video, Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman tells two huge whoppers in just a matter a seconds.
• Lie #1: “The FCC is not talking about killing the net neutrality rules”
No, Mr. Silliman, that’s exactly what the FCC is talking about. Look at these bullet points from FCC Chairman Pai’s own fact sheet about his proposal:
It might be semi-coherent policy-ese to most people, but that very first bullet point — “Propose to reinstate the information service classification of broadband Internet access service” — is indeed the death knell for net neutrality.
Why? Because it was that “information service classification” of broadband that resulted in the first death of net neutrality.
In 2010, the FCC issued an Open Internet Order, barring ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing access to online content or services. But Verizon — yes, Verizon — sued to stop these rules, arguing that the FCC didn’t have the authority to enforce them because of that outdated “information service” label. In Jan. 2014, the court agreed.
Note that the court in that ruling didn’t say the rules themselves were bad or unconstitutional, but that the FCC couldn’t enforce them because broadband was not classified as a Title II common carrier like landline telephone service.
So reinstating that information service classification would make it impossible for the FCC to have any sort of actual, enforceable neutrality rules. Rules that can’t be enforced are worthless, meaning neutrality would be dead.
Even if the FCC were to take another stab at net neutrality without Title II — despite the fact that it failed in court —
looking further into the actual language of the proposed rulemaking, Pai makes it clear that he has no real intention of maintaining the rules against blocking and throttling.
The proposal states that “we oppose blocking lawful material,” but then seeks public comment on whether any sort of anti-blocking rule is needed.
“For example, prior to 2015, many large Internet service providers voluntarily abided by the 2010 no-blocking rule in the absence of a regulatory obligation to do so,” notes the proposal. “Do we have reason to think providers would behave differently today if the Commission were to eliminate the no-blocking rule?”
Shouldn’t the question be: Why not have a no-blocking rule? Every day, hundreds of millions of people go un-stabbed, but there are still rules against stabbing.
The proposal also raises the question (meaning Pai already knows the answer he wants to hear) of whether or not the FCC’s anti-throttling rules are needed, claiming they may be duplicative of existing antitrust and anti-collusion laws: “Could the continued existence of this rule negatively impact future innovative, pro-competitive business deals that would not by themselves run afoul of merger conditions or established antitrust law?”
And all of these questions come with the conditional issue of how the FCC could actually create and enforce one of these rules without the very legal authority that the court has said it needs to do so.
• Lie #2: “Not we nor any other ISP are asking them to kill the Open Internet rules.”
Again, all we need to do to call out this particular lie is point out that Verizon spent four years in court challenging the very rules that it now claims to love, but doesn’t want to be held to.
Imagine the person you’re dating says “I believe and support the idea that I shouldn’t sleep with other people, but I’m going to spend the better part of a decade arguing in every possible forum that sleeping with other people shouldn’t be against the rules, which I swear I won’t break if they don’t exist. Also did you see the hot new neighbor?”
The Fictional Tale Of Verizontown
The real centerpiece of Verizon’s propaganda video is a longwinded straw man analogy from Silliman.
“Imagine in your town someone says ‘I’m really concerned that homeowners may start prohibiting people from walking up their front walks,’ so mailmen can’t deliver mail, Girl Scouts can’t sell cookies; it’ll be chaos,” he begins. “So the mayor says, ‘I’m gonna pass a rule that no one can prohibit people from walking up their front walk, but to pass this rule I need… all homeowners to give me complete authority over your property.’ Well, how are you gonna feel about that?”
There’s one huge problem underlying this risible tale: It’s all built on a fictional foundation.
This story involves a government authority trying to tell homeowners what to do with their property. That is decidedly not the case with net neutrality. The Open Internet Order does not tell internet users which sites or services they can and can’t use; it tells Verizon and other ISPs that they can’t have any influence over what you do online. Net neutrality does nothing to dictate how you, the consumer, uses the internet; it only seeks to prevent ISPs from dictating that for you.
What Silliman is attempting to do through this Bizarro World children’s tale is to paint Verizon as the defender of the homeowner from the overreaching mayor. The government wants to take over your whole house! No Girl Scout cookies! Don’t worry, Uncle Verizon is here to give you back your freedom!
A better strained analogy would have been the mayor declaring that the contractor who paves your driveway or lays the stones for your walkway can’t tell you which pizza place to order delivery. Verizon is no savior.
If Verizon supported the net neutrality rules, they would do so in writing; and we don’t mean in a non-binding blog post. Put it into actual policy. Tell your customers you won’t start throttling access to competing services, that you won’t prioritize access for companies that pay you.
We’ve asked Verizon for comment on this video, but the company has yet to respond.
Meanwhile, this morning the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which had previously shot down telecom industry challenges to the 2015 neutrality rules, once again denied ISP’s legal efforts to gut the law. This time, the full appeals court — as opposed to the usual three-judge panel — denied [PDF] a request for a re-hearing.