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Communications Privacy The Internet United States

FCC's Ajit Pai Says Broadband Market Too Competitive For Strict Privacy Rules (arstechnica.com) 154

In an op-ed published on the Washington Post, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his counterpart at the FTC have argued that strict privacy rules for ISPs aren't necessary in part because the broadband market is more competitive than the search engine market. From a report on ArsTechnica: Internet users who have only one choice of high-speed home broadband providers would probably scoff at this claim. But an op-ed written by Pai and Acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen ignored the lack of competition in home Internet service, focusing only on the competitive wireless broadband market. Because of this competition, it isn't fair to impose different rules on ISPs than on websites, they wrote. "Others argue that ISPs should be treated differently because consumers face a unique lack of choice and competition in the broadband marketplace," Pai and Ohlhausen wrote in their op-ed. "But that claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny either. For example, according to one industry analysis, Google dominates desktop search with an estimated 81 percent market share (and 96 percent of the mobile search market), whereas Verizon, the largest mobile broadband provider, holds only an estimated 35 percent of its market." [...] Instead of addressing the lack of competition in home Internet service, Pai and Ohlhausen simply didn't mention it in their op-ed. But they argued that ISPs shouldn't face stricter privacy rules than search engines and other websites because of the level of competition in broadband and the amount of data companies like Google collect about Internet users. "As a result, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Congress decided to disapprove the FCC's unbalanced rules," they wrote. "Indeed, the FTC's criticism of the FCC's rules last year noted specifically that they 'would not generally apply to other services that collect and use significant amounts of consumer data.'"
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FCC's Ajit Pai Says Broadband Market Too Competitive For Strict Privacy Rules

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  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:24PM (#54179371)

    Is this still planet Earth, or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? Not even Soviet Russia is sufficient to explain this deranged and tortured argument.

    • You would have to be a complete moron or high as fuck to think broadband companies compete at all. This statement isn't surprising coming from a former cable company lobbyist though.
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        There's a lot of competition in broadband... in areas where rich people live. That's why the apartment complex a block away from me (only affordable by software engineers) has gigabit fiber, cable, ADSL2, "Ethernet", and half a dozen other options, whereas the mobile home park where I live (just a block away) that has a broader mix of demographics has only Comcast and ADSL2 (at single-digit Mbps with abysmal uplink speeds).

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      I feel like Ajit is totally out of touch with how broadband works in reality. Most market areas have little to no competition at all, and broadband providers get monopoly or duopoly power in their regions. How is this somehow a competitive market?

      Is he being disingenuous enough to call satellite links broadband? Or cell phone plans, are those somehow "broadband" that covers a household now?

      • by H3lldr0p ( 40304 )

        No. This is a case where his future plans of employment are contingent upon his to understanding reality from your's or my perspective. So he doesn't. He believes what his likely future employers want him to believe.

    • Oh it's simple. Google is seen to be "anti-Trump" and Comcast and Verizon are "pro-Trump". Therefore the rules should only apply to Google and not Comcast or Verizon. Everything else is porcine cosmetics.
    • Indeed. He's having to contort his arguments pretty hard to get them to sound in any way reasonable. This part in particular stuck out to me:

      it isn't fair to impose different rules on ISPs than on websites

      I assume he's playing the part of a willing fool by ignoring the obvious fact that the two are fundamentally different. Websites are inherently available to everyone, and thus are inherently capable of competing against every other one. ISPs are inherently regional, and thus are inherently incapable of competing against any others outside their region. The problem tend

      • Google could have 99.9% of the market, and there would still be more competition among search engines than among ISPs where I live, given that there's exactly one ISP offering broadband speeds at my address (a suburban home in an area with a population of about 250K, so, not out in the boonies). The fact that other ISPs exist somewhere does nothing to change my situation here in the real world. This sort of situation is exactly what regulation is supposed to prevent; that he doesn't acknowledge this simple

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:24PM (#54179375)

    What has one to do with the other? You could just as well have said "No privacy for you because purple monkey dishwasher" and it would have made just about as much sense.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He just needs to say words to give his supporters, none of whom know anything about the Internet other than they can yell at liberals on it, something to yell at those same liberals complaining about the FCCs anti-consumer moves.

      • I dunno, I think it would be an interesting experiment to see what level of cognitive dissonance trump supporters are capable of. The veneer of logical sounding words on the shit is already so transparent, yet they parrot it. Saying "it's a competitive market" is less immediately obvious bullshit than "We're going to have mexico pay for the wall." Most trump supporters aren't aware that ISPs basically have a monopoly most places.

        I'd honestly be impressed if he just told his supporters that Obamacare had
    • War is Peace.
      Freedom is Slavery.
      Ignorance is Strength.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We need to go after this guy's career. It's time to clean house. He's a bad combination of ignorant and important. We can't do anything about the former but at least we can fix the latter.

    • "No privacy for you because purple monkey dishwasher"

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That old dishwasher argument again. Hmmm, doesn't that hold water?

      • Oh my god, that's all you people ever ask! "Does that hold water, does that hold water", why is that important? There are children out there dying! On our streets! Every single day! People without jobs! Strife, domestic and abroad!

        No sir, I say this is not the time for such discussions. It is time to take each other by the hand, across the board, find the common ground, close the lines and join together, for a house divided cannot stand! We have to go forward into the future, bold and fearless, for our chil

    • by Dracos ( 107777 )

      Laughable bullshit. Pai either has no clue what he's doing, is a complete industry lapdog, or both.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Tom Wheeler publishes a rebuttal op-ed very soon.

    • You could just as well have said "No privacy for you because purple monkey dishwasher"

      My God, you're right! That story [amazon.com] changed my life. ;)

  • Riiiiiiiiiight... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:34PM (#54179465) Journal
    I have access to more than a dozen search engines. I have access to 3 ISPs. Seems like there's more 4x as much competition in the search market, at least in my locality.

    My understanding is that I'm lucky to have more than one ISP available, and absolutely blessed to have more than two. Everybody has the same access to search engines, though, and I'm pretty sure nobody has access to more than a dozen ISPs.
    • You are lucky. I have one wired, broadband ISP: Spectrum (previously Time Warner Cable). They recently announced that all TWC brokered deals will expire and they won't cut new deals. This could mean my Internet costs will go up by $50. I have no other options so it's either take what Spectrum will give me or go without Internet. (The latter is not an option.)

      If Spectrum tomorrow announced that they were injecting a dozen ads into each page I viewed, I'd still have no options.

      When consumers can't vote with t

      • I've had Charter Spectrum for years. No data caps and my average download speed is 66 Mbps. You'll love Charter.
        • I've had Charter Spectrum for years. No data caps and my average download speed is 66 Mbps. You'll love Charter.

          Depending on your area. Spectrum is awesome where I am but I've heard horror stories about other areas.

        • I think it's going to depend on how they handle upgrading the Time Warner Cable network. TWC was in the midst of a "MAXX" upgrade cycle that would have bumped up the speeds without increasing the prices. (I'd have gotten a higher speed on my plan but would keep paying the same amount as before.) My area would have likely been upgraded this year, but all of those upgrades were put on hold with the merger.

      • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @02:19PM (#54179935) Journal
        At one point, I had *ZERO* ISP options. The apartments I lived in provided their own "cable" service and did not offer internet. I petitioned residents to get the management company to allow AT&T to install an on-premises DSLAM so we could at least have ONE broadband option, as there was no way they were going to allow a cable company to run "competing" lines.

        This predated the FCC requirement (which aren't enforced anyway) that apartment complexes allow cable companies to install lines; but, I still know someone who lives there and they're still thankful that I petitioned for DSL, as nothing has changed in the past 15 years.

        And no, satellite was not an option; we were not allowed to mount a dish on the roof (we could stake one into the ground on our side of the building) and half the units faced the wrong way. Including mine.

        I've also lived in areas with a single option; in fact, that's been the case in most places I've lived until I moved to the bay area. I've had 2 or 3 options everywhere I've lived here, save for the one place that had 4. I also recognize that this is not common, having lived elsewhere in the country and seen the reality of the market.

        I also recognize that 4, the most choices I've had anywhere is less than 12; apparently unlike the FCC.
        • I also recognize that 4, the most choices I've had anywhere is less than 12; apparently unlike the FCC.

          The sad thing is, I'd be all for relaxing the regulations if everyone had 12 ISPs to choose from. It would be easy to tell ISP A that you're against some business practice of theirs, vote with your wallet, and go to another ISP. For most people in the country, though, They're lucky if they have one other ISP to go to. (I don't have the figures on hand at the moment to know whether most have only 1 ISP, but

          • Exactly! Regulations really suck, as they do incur some administrative overhead for the companies which have to comply with them. Those overhead costs get added to the price we pay, which raises the floor for the cost of goods and services; however. Of course, without a proper market (including open competition), prices will always rise nearer to the ceiling, the most the market will bear, rather than sinking to the floor. Clearly, without competition, we do need regulation; but competition is better for al
        • Fully agree w/ you. Everywhere I've lived, I've had only ONE choice of broadband. It might have been different had I invited someone else, like say U-verse, but I needed broadband for my FaceTime & Vonage calls. Don't have a TV, so refused to buy a service. But bottom line: if I wanna get rid of, say, Xfinity, I'd have to change addresses. That's hardly choice of providers
      • You are lucky.

        Then I must be in some special place that nobody ever heard of, because I currently use five different ISPs and have access to at least two more who would be happy to sell me service.

        I have one wired, broadband ISP

        What you are saying is that you only have one option that provides the service you want at the price you want to pay via a medium that you want to use. That is VERY different than there only being one ISP available to you.

        For example, wireless covers a very large part of the US, especially when you realize that a fixed wireles

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          For example, wireless covers a very large part of the US, especially when you realize that a fixed wireless customer can use external directional antennas to connect from much further away than a cell phone user can. Is there truly no 3g or 4g service where you live?

          How is it that Comcast can offer an order of magnitude more GB per month than its competitors for the same price?

        • Wireless carriers, like Verizon/AT&T/Sprint, typically have either low caps or - in the case of the newer "unlimited" plans - a threshold after which your speeds are reduced. This is a good service to use for checking Facebook on the go, but not good for streaming Netflix from home. My Verizon Wireless plan has a 10GB data cap. I'd hit that in under 4 hours of HD. I recently checked and they have a "data only" plan that one could use to give a device Internet access without needing cell phone/SMS servic

          • Using your barbershop analogy, it's more like there are five barbershops in town. One will cut your hair for a reasonable price

            The difference is that you do, indeed, have a choice between competing ISPs, not that there is only one ISP you can choose from. Not everyone has as such an exacting set of requirements as you do.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google receives info on 100% of web site visits in the Chrome browser (about 55% of desktop) and nearly 100% on Android phones in the form of the "malicious site check".

      Throw in Google ads which has a 84.9% market share. Then add Gmail.

      It isn't that you haven't thought this through, it is that you aren't knowledgeable about how your internet plumbing works.

      If you visit a malicious site, how do you think that warning happened (Google handles that)? If you visit a web site, who does the advertising?

      The "com

    • Xfinity is the only choice in my condo apartment: only way I have a choice of ISPs is if I'm into DSL, and even on that, I'm not sure I can still get Earthlink. In the late 90s, there was a healthy market of DSL providers, but cable took forever, and that too, was just a handful. In Charlotte, all I had in my apartment was TWC, while in Atlanta, it was Charter Spectrum (this was before their acquisition of TWC).

      It's not a competitive market if I have to change addresses to change ISPs

    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      I have 2. Hilterfinity and sATTan. Hilterfinity is the only real choice since it's unmatched in speed but not in shady business practices (in my area).

  • I have more options for natural gas providers than internet, and I even live in a competitive area, with two cable providers plus the usual DSL and so on.

  • Must be the good shit.

    How about we reverse this and start with, my data is MINE. You don;t touch it without a warrent or at least little thing called "probable cause". -start there.

    This trend of turning ISPs into spies and intiatives that make no sense claim doing privacy is too complicated or expensive is really getting on my nerves.

    No worries though, it just pushes more users to use encryption and learn better security practices. When all traffic is encrypted what wil lthey regulate then?
  • Industry Shill (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:44PM (#54179563)
    Pai is nothing more than a shill for the telecom industry. Another gator added to the swamp by the Hustler in Chief.
  • Of course, he did (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:44PM (#54179567)

    Welcome to the Trump Administration where whatever craziness you say is overshadowed by the crazier things the President says. He says that the broadband market is more competitive than the search engine market and (because of this) ISPs should be allowed to sell privacy data of their customers.

    First of all let's address the main problem with his argument which is the false comparison. There are only a few players in the search engine market which is true; however, that is due to competition based on consumer choices. Many consumer choose to use Google over Bing. Many consumers cannot choose one ISP over another as there is often only one choice. Indeed if a consumer chooses to switch to Bing, it is as simple as not using Google. Many consumers cannot switch ISPs. Second whether or not Google has more of a marketshare than Bing does not mean Comcast can sell your browsing history.

    The main problem with comparing whether Google has a right to sell your data and Comcast does not all comes down to implied agreements. When you use Google for free, it is with the implied consent that your search history is being collected and monetized in exchange for the search service. When you pay Comcast for an Internet connection, there is no implied consent that you paying for a service means that Comcast makes money on your Internet data.

    Personally the sale of data is blatant attempt by ISPs to make more money by trying to legislate an exception to the rules. Their argument is that "Google does it, so should we."

    • As long as ISPs use emanate domain (compulsory selling of private assets for the public good) telephone poles, they should be regulated in a manor that favors public good. If all their poles were obtained through a purely free market arrangement then they should have free market regulations. Free market solutions will only work in free markets
    • When you use Google for free, it is with the implied consent that your search history is being collected and monetized in exchange for the search service. When you pay Comcast for an Internet connection, there is no implied consent that you paying for a service means that Comcast makes money on your Internet data.

      This. This. A THOUSAND TIMES THIS!!!

      Oh, and howabout "It's MY data; not theirs". In the meatspace world, that would be called THEFT.

  • Is that it's "too hard" to do what is their disadvantage.
  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @01:58PM (#54179717)

    The Internet is no longer a niche only a few people care about (see SOPA). Republicans are in for a surprise when democrats run ads with this shit against them and it proves to be effective. Trumps own base is against this. FFS INFOWARS is against it.

    This issue is an overwhelming loser with the public. Nobody believes ISPs should be allowed to stalk you online and no amount of weaving shit into gold is going to mask the smell. From what I remember public polling on this was something like 11% of the general public favoring the republican bill.

    • The Internet is no longer a niche only a few people care about (see SOPA). Republicans are in for a surprise when democrats run ads with this shit against them and it proves to be effective. Trumps own base is against this. FFS INFOWARS is against it.

      This issue is an overwhelming loser with the public. Nobody believes ISPs should be allowed to stalk you online and no amount of weaving shit into gold is going to mask the smell. From what I remember public polling on this was something like 11% of the general public favoring the republican bill.

      Rachael Maddow had a poll on last night that showed that 11% said Trump should sign that Bill, and 74% said "No" and "Hell, No!".

      And here we are, with our "Representative Governance".

      But exactly WHO are they REPRESENTING???

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedyNO@SPAMtpno-co.org> on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @02:00PM (#54179731) Homepage

    Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

    I don't often get to trot that out one.

  • Please how are isps going to inject ads into web site without getting sued? we have gone through this before with scum sucking malware toolbars that got sued and lost. An ISP has no right to insert their ads into any site no more then my cable provider can insert ads into the channels i watch..inject ads into my site...PLEAAAAAAAAAAAAAASEEEEEEEE.. i need the money lol.
  • To compare a search engine, which someone can choose or not choose to use, to a broadband provider, where there is only one, or if you are lucky two, to choose from in any given area is the literal definition of apples and oranges.

    Off the top of my head I can count six different search engines I could use. In my area there are exactly two broadband providers, and both offer the same high prices for the same slow speeds.

    As to this supposed "industry analysis", who did the analysis, Comcast? Of course they

    • As to this supposed "industry analysis", who did the analysis, Comcast? Of course they would say there is plenty of competition.

      I'd be willing to bet that they're including mobile operators in the "competition" space. Yes, if you include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and the dozen other resellers and tiny carriers, you have a lot of "ISPs" to choose from. However, if you actually want to USE your mobile connection for something data-heavy like streaming, you'll quickly generate a huge bill.

      B

      • I'd be willing to bet that they're including mobile operators in the "competition" space.

        Since they compete with cable TV-carried internet services, yes, I bet they are. The FCC probably isn't using your limited definition based on price and medium to define what an ISP is, so they do come up with a number greater than '1' for 'available ISPs' in most markets. As do I, when I count five, oops, six (almost forgot one) that I am using right now.

        I don't think I could honestly claim that there is only one ISP in this area just because there is only one cable company. There are simply too many oth

  • He is being intellectually dishonest by lumping wireless Internet providers such as Verizion in the same "Market" as high-speed internet providers such as comcast, charter, etc. These are two different products, my wireless internet on my smartphone is a fraction of the speed i expect from wired internet on my desktop. Also what i expect to do on the smartphone is often different (though there is some overlap) with what I expect to do on a desktop/laptop. Different markets, different products.

    ALSO: Googl
    • Not to mention that mobile providers typically have caps. Right now, I can use 10GB of data per month on my Verizon Wireless plan. If I streamed Netflix videos at only Standard Definition and did nothing else, that would give me just over 14 hours of streaming. At High Definition, I'd have just over 3 hours of viewing.

      Yes, newer plans are "unlimited", but that's usually with an asterisk and fine print that states you get throttled to slower speeds if you exceed a certain "definitely not a cap" amount. Eithe

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        To work around the cap, switch from Netflix's streaming plan to its DVD or Blu-ray plan.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        If you're willing to accept standard definition video, T-Mobile has the "Binge On" program not to count video against your data plan. (There is no charge for a video provider to participate in Binge On; it just has to register with T-Mobile and detect throttling to 1000-1500 kbps.)

    • He is being intellectually dishonest by lumping wireless Internet providers such as Verizion in the same "Market" as high-speed internet providers such as comcast, charter, etc. These are two different products,

      I think it is intellectually dishonest to claim that wireless services aren't Internet because you think they are two different products when they really aren't. I use wireless services and I see no difference between them and wired in any significant area. Maybe one significant thing: I got a static IP for free from VZW while Comcast still provides a dynamic. But Charter provides a static for my business account so maybe it's still "no significant difference".

      my wireless internet on my smartphone is a fraction of the speed i expect from wired internet on my desktop.

      "Not as fast as I want" isn't a reason to clai

  • It's driving massive interest and adoption of VPN technology, encryption, and general awareness of what your options are to maintain privacy online.

    In a hilarious twist, most of the VPN technologies also cause huge headaches for firms targetting and deliverty ads, too - thus likely costing them money.

    It ain't all bad.

  • Just going to tunnel through germany openvn back to the states. Fuck it. If comcast wants to sell the information that there's an encrypted pipe going to germany they're welcome to. VPS with 1TB data is $5 a month these days. You could probably setup your own TOR network in 5 regions for $25 a month

  • Ajit Pai is a very bad liar and shill. He's just plain bad at spin, angle, misdirection... and yet he is a Republican.

    That's the confusing part.

  • If

    strict privacy rules for ISPs aren't necessary

    then the ISPs wouldn't have a problem with the rules being put in place then, would they? So of course they ARE fsking necessary.

  • Too competitive? I would submit that the broadband industry is *least* competitive major industry in America. If you have any choice in providers at all, you are lucky.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      Most of the U.S. population is within the coverage area of at least one wired ISP (cable or DSL) and at least three cellular ISPs (AT&T, Verizon, and at least one of Sprint and T-Mobile). That makes four choices.

      • True, but running a home (or God-forbid, business) from mobile broadband would only be a desperate last-resort option. You will have sky-high bills, throttling after a certain amount of easily-reached bandwidth, or more likely, both.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Then do most of your work on an EC2 instance or other virtual private server, and use your computer as a remote desktop terminal. For streaming video, ask your video provider to join T-Mobile's Binge On service, which makes standard-definition streaming video not count against your quota. For Windows OS updates or other bulk uploads or downloads, drive into town and use restaurant or library Wi-Fi. What else sucks multiple GB of bandwidth per month?

          • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

            For Windows OS updates or other bulk uploads or downloads, drive into town and use restaurant or library Wi-Fi.

            No.

            Even in the unlikely event that those "free" services that someone (ultimately you) is paying for would continue to be free when people are (ab)using them for their bulk uploads and downloads, still No.

            What else sucks multiple GB of bandwidth per month?

            All kinds of things, including (for instance):

            ...use your computer as a remote desktop terminal.

            I honestly cannot tell whether you are shilling, whether your internally held beliefs actually line up with Pai, or whether you think Pai ought to be correct because of who he represents and so you are backing up his total nonsense.

  • Why does this stop at ISPs? Maybe your local branch library could get in on this action and get some data mining money from their usage.

    Maybe your bank should get in on this too. Everything you purchase with your card can be pretty valuable information for market research.

    Maybe we should all just have mandated computer chips installed in our brains that allows the Feds to sell thought mining to marketers so they can better pillage our wallets. Just think of it. "Wow, I can't believe this is so cheap,
  • because the broadband market is more competitive than the search engine market.

    Maybe I missed that left turn at albuquerque https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    but what the heck does search engines have to do with the horrendous lack of broad band competition?

  • At this point, I dunno if Ajit really thinks the entire US population are composed solely on completely ignorant people with low IQs and pretends he doesn't know better by trying to come up with this cringeworthy "I actually know nothing about what I'm talking" poorly thought out excuse, or if he simply is THIS dumb. Doesn't help that he has one of the most punchable faces in the universe too.

    Statistics of usage have NOTHING to do with monopolistic practices. It's about choice. Everyone and anyone who uses

  • this is a late april fools joke, right?
  • Woops. Ajit Pai outed Verizon's business plan. Those delusional mooks think they can out-Google Google by sucking in even more data than Google. I don't think Verizon and Comcast wanted him to actually repeat the bullshit reasoning they gave him in their policy paper that he's slavishly adopting. So hard to bribe good help these days...

  • People move around with cell data plans, can have their display glanced at by random strangers.
    People know police could demand a cell device as part of an "investigation" (legal or not).
    So people might be more careful with a cell device. Sure they have lots of different options with cell networks but their data use is more careful.
    A desktop user at home is secure in their papers and rights. A court needs to provide a reason to enter their home and search their desktop computer.
    So a home broadband conn

I haven't lost my mind -- it's backed up on tape somewhere.

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