Although the majority of consumers on both sides of the aisle support net neutrality, many ISP lobbyists and think tankers have successfully presented the ongoing battle against it as a partisan issue, while the need for rules protecting against massive monopolies by companies like Comcast are universally desired.
Guest post by Karl Bode of Techdirt
Yet for most of the last decade, ISP lobbyists and think tankers have managed to frame the subject in the media as a partisan one -- quite successfully using the country's deep political divisions to fuel disagreement and stall real progress. In reality, our collective disdain for growing monopolies like Comcast (and the high prices and abysmal customer service that result) tends to burn through partisan myopia. As a result, most people realize that in the absence of real competition you need some basic rules of the road to protect consumers and Comcast competitors alike.
That's why, when the FCC passed relatively basic net neutrality protections in 2015, the vast majority of the record 4 million public comments filed with the FCC supported the creation of these rules. And again, data analysis of the comments filed so far show massive opposition to dismantling those same rules. Data scientist Jeffrey Fossett managed to dig through the more than 1.5 million comments filed with the FCC so far and found that -- once you exclude form letter submissions (in common use by both sides), 97% of the remaining comments support keeping the rules intact:
We recently discussed how some unidentified group or individual isn't happy with the fact that the rules have broad support, and has begun using a bot to stuff the comment section with entirely fake net neutrality opposition. According to Fossett's analysis, a whopping 40% of the 1.5 million comments are courtesy of this bot, which appears to just have pulled names from a hacked database somewhere to craft its phony opposition. You can leave it up to your imagination as to which groups, companies or individuals might benefit by such a massive fabrication, but Fossett makes the impact obvious:
At the moment, the FCC has frozen all public comments for what's known as a "sunshine period," a bit of bureaucratic prattle during which the FCC is supposed to avoid being lobbied and seriously reflect upon all of the input they've received so far. And Fossett suggests that the FCC may just want to actually listen to what the public (the non-bots among us, anyway) are telling them:
"The FCC has now entered a “Sunshine” period for docket 17-108, during which it will not consider new comments. Given the magnitude of filings (~695,000 if you exclude the anti-NN spam) and the balance of opinion expressed (97% in favor of net neutrality or 59% if you include the spam), this analysis suggests that the FCC should reconsider its position on net neutrality during this period of reflection."
While FCC boss Ajit Pai has breathlessly claimed he'll be reflecting very deeply on the public's input, there's every indication he intends to ignore the public and push forward with dismantling the rules anyway. In fact, instead of seriously contemplating the public's support for the rules, the FCC spent a large amount of the sunshine period trying to portray net neutrality supporters as unhinged, unreasonable and racist. And when the FCC votes on Thursday to begin rolling back the rules (with a final killing vote likely later this year), you can be damn sure that Pai will lecture everyone on how he's gutting oversight of some of the least competitive and least liked companies in America -- for the immense benefit of the American people.