The BfA Truth Squad

Fact Checking The Justification for Utility Regulation of the Internet

We support Congress passing a commonsense net neutrality law which keeps the internet open and free. But we cannot support the dubious idea of regulating the modern internet with rules designed for the 1930’s era telephone system. For years, supporters of this “Title II” utility idea have been unable to justify such a radical change in the way the internet works or explain why these rules were needed.

Until now (not really)…..

One such group, Free Press, recently produced a list of alleged “Net Neutrality Violations” to rationalize their support for the regulatory time warp of Title II. We’ve read their nearly thousand word “brief history”and fact checked their claims (fact check #1: they are not brief). But, it was hard to find much that was true. So, Free Press, we don’t believe you and don’t think anyone else should.

That’s a lot of Pinnochios — receipts are below.

A Canadian ISP blocked a server hosting a website supporting a strike against the company.

FACTS: A Canadian ISP is, by definition, IN CANADA, which is another country. Maybe call them about this one?

OUR VERDICT: Really? If you are attempting to justify utility-style regulation of the internet in the United States, abuses that may or may not have happened in Canada aren’t relevant.

Having struck out hunting for abuses in the United States, we aren’t exactly surprised to see Free Press take an intercontinental excursion. They’re not the first to “Blame Canada” after all. We’ve seen this ugly sentiment rear its jingoistic head before:

European Union regulators found violations of regulations in Europe in 2012.

FACTS: Europe is not in the United States.

OUR VERDICT: We can’t decide whether Free Press wants us to die of boredom or jet lag.

If Free Press has concerns about stuff happening in Europe, they should go talk to the EU (in Brussels). Maybe set up an office there (it’s a growth market, Politico just moved in). To give them a head start, because we are nice like that, we have designed a logo for their new office. It’s in Belgian Dutch:

In 2012, a US ISP (yay! — we are finally in the United States) disabled the FaceTime video app on customers’ iPhones. Additionally, from 2011–2013, ISPs blocked Google Wallet.

FACTS: While net neutrality regulations were in place during this time period, the FCC never indicated these were violations.

OUR VERDICT: This happened in the United States, which is an improvement on the previous two examples.

But, Free Press, this is (supposedly) a list of things that would have violated the rules you want, and is supposed to provide a justification for them.

But rules were in place, and these examples didn’t violate them. Um….

In 2011, a U.S. wireless carrier announced it would block streaming videos from all sources but YouTube.

FACTS: NO. NIX. NAY (or just NOPE). The carrier had one lower-priced data plan that customers could select if they were OK passing on video platforms that take a lot of bandwidth. The carrier also had many other plans with streaming video from all sources.

OUR VERDICT: Come on guys, is your friend. Something is not blocked if you can get it.

In 2005, a North Carolina telephone company/DSL internet provider blocked Vonage VOIP services. Vonage filed an FCC complaint. The FCC stepped in to sanction the ISP, but lacks the authority to stop a similar abuse today.

FACTS: Yes, a small, rural telephone company in Western North Carolina, blocked Vonage over its internet service. But after a complaint was filed at the FCC, the company voluntarily changed its behavior.

Let’s be clear. The FCC didn’t use Title II or even Net Neutrality rules to force the company to do these things because it was 2005 and these rules and regulations weren’t even in place at that time! So to say the FCC lacks the authority to deal with this today (or that it would if Title II was reversed) is um, er, well, what’s the word — yes, wrong.

The facts here are so off, we wonder if Free Press confused this rural Western North Carolina telephone company with a different one.

Free Press, we agree Sarah the operator should not have been all up in the business of everyone in Mayberry.

OUR VERDICT: This example has nothing to do with Title II or Net Neutrality rules.

Also, 2017 is not 2005. How do we know? Star Wars movies were really bad then and they are really good now.

In the interest of brevity, we are grouping a few together: in 2010 an ISP copped to hijacking user-search queries and, in 2011, small ISPs were redirecting search queries via the vendor Paxfire.

FACTS: None of these instances were intentional, but resulted from network changes that didn’t work as intended and were quickly corrected.

Also, Net Neutrality regulations were in place in 2010 and 2011 and the FCC never indicated they were implicated at all. That means the things you are calling net neutrality violations are not net neutrality violations. (We’ll skip the Inigo Montoya joke but you get it.)

OUR VERDICT: Everything that went wrong with your computer in 2010 and 2011 was not a net neutrality violation.

Like this:

Or this:

Spinning Wheel of DEATH!

During a 2013 oral argument, an ISP lawyer said, in the absence of Title II rules, her client would “explore” deals prioritizing some services, content or sites over others.

FACTS: This misstates what the lawyer said and again suggests a need for Free Press to bookmark

OUR VERDICT: We’re beginning to wonder if Free Press doesn’t know what words mean, saying you might explore something in a hypothetical is not the same as doing it.

Remember when Lincoln Chafee said he would explore transitioning to the metric system if he became President? That didn’t even come within a centiliter (or whatever would be a long distance in the metric system) of happening.

Remember Newt Gingrich’s plan for Moon Colonies? Those people aren’t living on the moon.

See, Free Press?

An ISP “forced” Apple to block Skype on the iPhone.

FACTS: Apple is a lot of things: phone innovator, computer maker, and tablet creator. But Apple is not an Internet Service Provider. Skype being blocked on the iPhone was an Apple restriction, not an ISP restriction, even if the wireless smartphone service provider asked them to do it. You can’t get lots of things in the App Store, for lots of reasons. There is a big, long list of restrictions on Apple’s own website.

OUR VERDICT: Apple is not an ISP and no one we know is saying Title II is needed to open up the app store. Apple’s policy on Skype isn’t a violation of rules that don’t apply to Apple.

But the Free Press “brief history” links to an article. This article must explain why this was a net neutrality violation, right?

Nope. It actually cites FREE PRESS as claiming it is.

Really? The proof that it is…… an article where YOU said it is so…? That’s sock puppetry at its worst.

Also here is a list of reasons to cite yourself for support — “no one else agrees with me” isn’t listed.

An ISP blocked some peer-to-peer technologies including BitTorrent and Gnutella in 2005.

FACTS: This ISP implemented what one Google executive described as “inelegant network management,” which delayed (which doesn’t mean the same thing as “blocked”!) certain peer-to-peer uploads that caused congestion on the network. More noteworthy is that this same ISP changed its network management practices voluntarily.

Wait. What? The ISP stopped VOOL LUUN TAAR RIILLY in 2005, when Title II for the internet was just a twinkle in Free Press’ eye. Hmmmm…..

OUR VERDICT: It’s almost like Free Press is pointing out that Title II regulation of the Internet isn’t really needed. OR maybe this just points out that Free Press and others need to keep looking to a galaxy far, far away for supporting evidence.

The Truth Is Out There

This is what the American people hate about Washington. Instead of working together when there is an opportunity to do so — we all want stable permanent rules for net neutrality — Free Press would rather attack us with claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

Supposed “net neutrality” supporters like Amazon and Google have their own long history of disregarding neutrality when it suits them (see, for example, the multibillion dollar fine against Google for paid prioritization in search results and the Amazon patent for tech that blocks shoppers from checking competitor prices online when using a retailer’s wifi). Free Press chooses not to care about that.

The FCC is considering repealing Title II. Free Press doesn’t want them to. We disagree with Free Press about that.

But all the doomsday rhetoric can’t change the truth — we support net neutrality and are urging Congress to pass binding enforceable net neutrality rules to solve this problem once and for all.

Free Press wants a circus. We want permanent protections that drive new innovation and spur investment in faster broadband in all parts of America.

End the Internet Regulation Circus Parade — with a permanent net neutrality law.

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