Why Comcast's Net Neutrality Promises Mean Absolutely Nothing
We've already noted many times how despite the chorus of cries when they were struck down -- the FCC's original network neutrality rules didn't actually do
much of anything. Crafted from language provided by AT&T, Google and Verizon
, the rules contained numerous loopholes letting companies do effectively whatever they wanted -- provided they offered up a flimsy, reasonable-sounding faux-technical justification
for it. They also failed to cover wireless. In short, the rules were a show pony.
To get their acquisition of Time Warner Cable approved by regulators, Comcast has kindly proclaimed that as a merger "condition," they'll agree to adhere to the struck down rules for several more years.
The Washington Post
notes how Comcast is running a series of print and TV ads patting themselves on the back for being the "only ISP in America legally bound by full net neutrality rules." Let us buy Time Warner Cable, Comcast argues, and our generous adherence to largely meaningless net neutrality rules will cover more people, benefitting everyone.
The Post notes that Comcast omits to mention that their breathless dedication to neutrality not only doesn't mean much but, like milk, it has a shelf life:
But what Comcast doesn't say is that its commitment to "full" net neutrality expires in 2018. After that, it will no longer be legally bound to follow the 2010 rules, and it'll be free to abandon that commitment literally overnight. Comcast does not note this detail in its ads; nor does it explain how its policies may change in 2018. In a statement to the Post, Comcast said the expiration of its net neutrality commitment was a "red herring" because it didn't have a problem with the 2010 rules and continues to "have no issue, long term, with them."
Even Post reporter Brian Fung affixes more value to the original rules than he should. Both the old FCC rules and the new proposal ban things ISPs have no intention of doing lest they incur the wrath of the public relations gods -- like simply blocking entire websites or services. Neither sets of rules cover the current net neutrality battlegrounds such as usage caps, wireless, or interconnection and peering.
AT&T, Verizon and Comcast all love the FCC's latest set of proposed neutrality rules
, because they pre-empt the possibility of real, tough rules addressing real, modern neutrality issues. Comcast, meanwhile, has been historically able to tell regulators what the conditions on their mergers should be
, a pretty obvious symptom of regulatory dysfunction.