The FCC Can’t Even Fight Net Neutrality Without Getting Sued Over Transparency Laws

Truly instilling us with confidence.

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The FCC, led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, is still on its crusade to roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules in the name of doing what’s best for the internet, but the FCC’s information policies haven’t been nearly as transparent as their lies. They’re now being sued for breaking the Freedom of Information Act with respect to records about net neutrality, which is certainly a reassuring respect for accountability from an agency that now thinks looser regulations are the answer.

The FCC is being sued by American Oversight, a new legal group specifically aimed at policing the ethics of the Trump administration. The group filed two Freedom of Information Act requests for agency data on net neutrality back in April, and the FCC has done nothing but stall since then, so they’ve gotten the courts involved as the next step for the FCC’s actions on net neutrality draws closer. “They failed to reply to our FOIA requests within the time period required by the law, so we are suing to ask a court to order the FCC to comply,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo.

Pai himself has claimed that the strong net neutrality rules hurt investment in broadband internet, as well as hurt innovation—innovation like giving data from certain sites or services preferential treatment, which Pai has already moved towards by dropping investigations of “zero-rating.” Pai likes to call zero-rating something free for customers, but it’s no different from charging more for competing services and sets up a situation where not all internet traffic is competing on equal footing. Not only that, but—surprise!—providers like to use it to promote their own services.

That’s not helpful innovation in anything other than marketing for ISPs to draw in customers and make more money. Meanwhile, the internet innovation most Americans want is service that works quickly and reliably at a reasonable price, as well as maybe a real choice of provider, rather than the current situation, where many customers are stuck with only bad options—or none, really. We don’t need to further enable price-gouging monopolies with terrible customer service, and Pai’s own respect for the public’s rights with these FOIA shenanigans are probably a pretty bad sign for which kind of innovation we’ll get.

(image: Jeremy Brooks on Flickr)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>