The fight to secure net neutrality protections for Californians keeps showing how far ISPs and their surrogates will go to make a buck off of ending the free and open Internet. The latest maneuver is a flood of deceptive robocalls targeting seniors and stating that net neutrality will raise their cell phone bills by $30 a month and slow down the Internet. It’s not just a lie, it’s proof that you’ve successfully put them on the defensive by contacting your representatives about net neutrality.
The robocalls don’t mention net neutrality by name. Instead, they simply assert that S.B. 822 will raise their bills and slow down their Internet. If ISPs decided to make this true by coordinating to raise prices in reaction to net neutrality legislation it would probably be illegal under federal antitrust law. There is no evidence that says net neutrality harms ISPs to the point where they must raise prices to make money. In fact, the evidence says the exact opposite. The fact that this is even possible reveals that we seriously lack sufficient competition in the wireless market. Such intentional misrepresentations demonstrate the extent major ISPs oppose any legal requirements to keep the Internet free and open, even after it has been discovered that they would go so far as to upsell public safety during an emergency in California.
The thing is, we know that none of these large companies is operating on so small a margin that complying with net neutrality would “force” them to raise their prices. We also know net neutrality rules have never raised their operational costs. We know these things because the evidence is already publicly available.
Major ISPs Have Had Their Profits Enhanced by Billions in Tax Cuts and Have Delivered Nothing in Return
This year, the two major wireless and wireline providers (Verizon and AT&T) that are leading the effort to oppose California passing net neutrality legislation are expected to receive an additional $7 billion in cash in hand from Congress’ tax cuts. (Verizon - $4 billion, AT&T - $3 billion). That’s after having their 2017 net income receive a one-time jump of approximately $38.7 billion ($20 billion to AT&T, $18.7 billion to Verizon) in deductions from those tax cuts. Yet these high profits augmented by tax policy changes give them no pause in deploying their surrogates to falsely state that they must raise everyone’s bills simply because they do not like consumer protection.
We should ask why these companies feel comfortable engaging in such a misinformation campaign during their most profitable year on record, rather than aggressively improving the competitive landscape in high-speed Internet access. EFF recently noted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in their recent inquiries into ISP access competition that nearly 85 percent of Americans live in a market where only their cable provider offers broadband access at 100 Mbps and above. Yet we have seen no signs of the two largest companies in the telephone industry deploying fiber to the home in their markets despite it being a proven technology that is cheaper to upgrade once installed and capable of reaching speeds that are 400 times the speed most Americans have access to now. That means they are not actually trying to compete with each other anymore and instead we are seeing efforts by them to stop laws from entitling Internet users to a free and open platform.
ISPs Have Never Raised Prices Because of Net Neutrality and None Have Dropped Prices in Response to its Repeal
When talking to their stockholders, ISPs have never claimed that net neutrality has forced them to raise their prices. Not one single legal document or financial disclosure report that carries a potential liability for lying have large ISPs represented that net neutrality will require them to raise prices. In fact, at least one ISP flat out admitted that the entire 2015 Open Internet Order with its legal landscape change in ISP privacy, competition, and consumer protection did little to affect their business plans.
This is because net neutrality efforts by the FCC dating back more than a decade were meant to preserve the status quo and keep the Internet as we have known it free and open. ISPs have long made their profits from charging their customers a subscription fee for service and the monthly bills we already pay them yield tremendous profits in return. However, as the ISP industry grew more concentrated and vertically integrated with content companies such as Time Warner and NBC Universal, so too have their ambitions to reshape the Internet with things such as arbitrary fees and preferential treatment for their own products. Verizon itself asserted under penalty of perjury when it sued to block net neutrality years ago that it would have already explored violating net neutrality if not for the FCC.
California, and Every State, Should Respond to the Public’s Demand for Net Neutrality With State Laws Until the Federal Rules Are Restored
The FCC’s decision to abandon the 2015 Open Internet Order and surrender oversight over the ISP industry will go down as the biggest mistake in Internet policy history. Already the U.S. Senate has voted to reverse the FCC and, with enough pressure, the House of Representatives may follow in September. An overwhelming number of businesses, education institutions, civil rights activists, and individuals across the political spectrum weighed in opposition but were ignored by the federal agency. It should come as no surprise that dozens of states have introduced bills with many having enacted various protections.
California stands on the brink of passing what many have called the “gold standard” of state-based net neutrality laws. You’ve already beaten back big ISPs’ attempts to gut and kill this bill once, and you can do it again. If you live in the state, take the time to call your state representative today before the bill is voted on this week. Real voices, not ISP robocalls, need to be heard. Tell your California assemblymember to vote “yes” on S.B. 822.
Tell California Representative to Vote Yes on S.B. 822