Nel's New Day

November 21, 2017

FCC Actions Lead to Totalitarian Government

Filed under: Net neutrality — trp2011 @ 10:53 PM

Two federal agencies, each headed by appointees by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and approved by Republicans, are planning to control information available to people in the United States.

The Department of Justice claims that it is protecting consumers from antitrust problems in its attempts to block a $85.4 billion takeover of CNN parent company Time Warner by AT&T. The world’s biggest telecommunications provider wants to merge with the world’s third-biggest entertainment firm, and the DOJ is demanding that AT&T sell Turner Broadcasting which owns CNN. The DOJ claims that the merger will increase television bills and give fewer innovative options. Behind the scenes, however, is a revenge move by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) toward a network that he decries as “fake news.”

Washington Post lists reasons to be suspicious about the DOJ’s decision:

  • The lawsuit doesn’t fit with DDT’s boosting big business, and the loss of net neutrality goes along with DDT’s lack of interest in supporting consumers.
  • Makan Delrahim, head of the antitrust division, didn’t see a problem with the merger until after DDT disapproved of it. Delrahim was appointed to his current position after he spent six months in the White House and managed Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination.
  • Lawsuits such as the DOJ one against AT&T have never succeeded because they are two different types of companies.
  • Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox network, may have an interest in purchasing CNN. Forcing a sale would make it easier.
  • DDT hates CNN. He’s called them “horrible human beings,” shared a video portraying himself as a professional wrestler attacking CNN, and constantly lies about what they won’t film while they’re filming it—such as the size of a crowd. Earlier this year, Jared Kushner met with a top Time Warner executive to tell him that 20 percent of CNN’s staff should be fired because of the way they covered the 2016 election. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote that DDT “is behaving again like a tin-pot dictator, trying to punish a media company that has dared to cover him honestly, aggressively and accurately.” And DDT’s constant remarks and tweets against CNN may damage any DOJ court case.

Ironically, a successful outcome to the lawsuit for DOJ could lead to the inability of big business to create monopolies through mergers in the future.

Another attempt to control the news is the loss of net neutrality. In a plan from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), providers of high-speed internet services such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T would be able to block websites and charge companies for speedier delivery. FCC would permit broadband companies to monitor and control users, for example giving discounts for permission to monitor browsing history and force users to their own apps by exempting them from mobile data limits. AT&T would greatly benefit from the disappearance of net neutrality by permission to promote its new content with a merger with an entertainment company. The beneficiaries of FCC’s proposed ruling against net neutrality are white men owning big telecom companies and broadcasting stations who want to control the media. The FCC claims that dropping net neutrality is good for consumers, but broadband companies have expanded infrastructure primarily in high-income areas for high profits. Low-income and rural areas won’t give them large returns, and they aren’t going to change their policies.

The possibility that Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC will dump net neutrality caused 21 million web users to send comments last summer in protest. Groups such as Free Press and Demand Progress organized online rallies to support net neutrality, and tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google strongly supported net neutrality. Bulk downloads opposing net neutrality led Pai to ignore all the supporting comments, and the FCC then refused a public records request to investigate the legitimacy of the comments. AT&T claimed the most “legitimate” net neutrality comments requested repeal, but a study showed that 98.5 percent of individually written net neutrality comments support the current net neutrality rules. Pai said that he doesn’t care about the pro-neutrality comments.

Another part of Pai’s plan is to stop classifying telecom giants as utilities which stops the FCC from prohibiting such practices as blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Enforcement of broadband companies would move to the Federal Trade Commission, a far more limited agency than the FCC. It would need to prove that telecom giants are being deceptive and could not issue fines in many situations.

Pai also intends to keep states from setting their own regulations counter to federal rules. He calls broadband an interstate information service. Any FCC ruling against net neutrality will certainly end up in court. Last year, a challenge from telecom companies and trade groups against net neutrality guidelines lost in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The FCC also voted last week to allow one corporation to own the local newspaper plus every commercial TV station in a town. The 1996 Telecommunications Act permitted a handful of corporations to own thousands of radio stations, and now the FCC is giving that permission to television. With a 3-2 vote, the FCC repealed a rule preventing one company in a media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. The same vote removed rules restricting the number of the number of TV and radio stations owned by a media company in one market as well as dropping the requirement that broadcasters operate a physical studio in markets where they are licensed.

The FCC has excuses, but their reason is that the highly conservative Sinclair Broadcasting (think far right of the Fox network) wants to deliver propaganda to 72 percent of homes in the United States. That’s “fake news.”

Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) addressed Pai’s agenda against consumers and small businesses in an FCC oversight hearing last summer:

“Chairman Pai, in the time that you have been head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity.”

For the record, Doyle listed some of Pai’s decisions: ending a net neutrality investigation into “anti-competitive zero-rating practices” by AT&T and Verizon Wireless; creating difficulties for low-income people to get broadband subsidies; and easing the process for large TV broadcasters’ mergers.

One of the first steps toward a totalitarian government is control of the press. DDT has been railing against the press since he began his campaign for president whenever they printed factual information that he didn’t like. He has threatened to create laws to stop negative reporting about him and takes pride in watching only the Fox network that consistently panders to him. DDT is so secretive about his actions that most of it comes only through leaks and other countries’ media. For example, the news about a long telephone conversation between Putin and DDT was first released by the Kremlin via Russia’s state media, not news sources in the United States. The FCC is giving DDT the opportunity to spread positive propaganda about him across the nation through newspapers and television while restricting information on the internet.

Retaliation against CNN can also make other news outlets more cautious so that they won’t be the next DDT targets. Just one case can poison honest journalism in the United States.

While the media obsessively focuses everyone’s attention on victims of sexual assault by politicians and famous entertainment figures in events past and present, it ignores the greatest threat to people in the United States in 2017—consumers’ loss of access to news. The media needs to shift its focus to save our democracy.

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