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Getting Bad Things Done – On Trump, FCC, Net Neutrality, ….

Simply put, Team Trump didn’t want the average American to have good information about what is fast becoming the defining feature of our 45th presidency: It doesn’t want the public to have good information. …The cloud of chaos emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days makes it easy to lose the big picture. ..

But behind the smoke and mirrors, Trump World is getting stuff done — bad stuff, like the gutting of many major regulations that once protected our environment, or the toxic police-state culture created by “taking the gloves off” ICE enforcement agents or your local cops, or installing regressive judges across the land. But the defining feature of Donald Trump’s presidency is its all-encompassing war on the truth. The tactic is the stream of lies that the president spews — sometimes dozens in a week. But the broader strategy is equally alarming: Trump hopes to extend and expand his reign of dishonesty by remaking the media landscape with fewer. diminished sources of valid facts, elevating the handful of outlets that worship our Dear Leader (Sinclair, Fox) while seeking to destroy the credibility and reputation of everyone else.

Trump’s big, bad idea is so universal it can embrace ideas that seem to be contradictions — until you look a little closer. How else to explain the fact that the FCC — controlled by a majority of pro-Trump commissioners — is, with its all-but-a-done-deal rollback of net neutrality, giving the gift of a lifetime to monster communication companies like Philadelphia-based Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Yet at the same time Trump’s Justice Department seems to be taking an anti-big-business stance in opposing the planned merger of AT&T and Time-Warner without the spin-off of key assets like Time-Warner’s CNN, the bete noir of Trump’s rabid fan base.

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

But there’s been widespread (and seemingly informed) speculation that the government’s merger move has little to do with its usually pro-business ideology and everything to do with old-fashioned revenge against the news outlet that Trump has called “the Fake News Network” and accused of treating him so unfairly (despite considerable evidence of the exact opposite). There’s no smoking gun, but pro-Trump news outlets like the Daily Caller and the New York Post have quoted sources that Trump would love to oust CNN chief Jeff Zucker, and other journalists have labored to find a reason for trying to block the merger other than presidential spite. So basically Team Trump wants fewer outlets controlling the news — and it wants those that survive to, in the immortal words of Omarosa Manigault, “bow down to President Trump.”

Hatred for, and the stifling of, a free press and free flow of information is the glue that holds the Trump presidency — and the 36 percent who support him — together. Consider these droplets:

In addition to its net neutrality push, the FCC has also adopted a series of rules that will dramatically expand the reach of Sinclair Broadcasting into a coast-to-coast behemoth (including, at least for now, Philadelphia’s Channel 17) and allow it to reshape your local TV news away from community journalism and toward its relentlessly pro-Trump political agenda, with one-size-fits-all Trumpian commentary and inane “terrorism alert desk.”
Trump’s Justice Department seems to be sending a chilling message to rank-and-file journalists — and especially alternative journalists on the left more likely to be critical of the president — by its shocking decision to pursue felony “rioting” charges that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence for a Texas photojournalist named Alexei Wood. Wood covered a destructive melee on Trump’s inauguration day and his apparent “crime” was going “wooo” as he filmed an act of vandalism, not very smart but not anywhere near the ballpark of criminality.
These official acts come against a constant drumbeat from Trump seeking to delegitimatize journalism and the First Amendment at least in the eyes of his own supporters, calling hard-working reporters “the enemy of the American people,” threatening to relax libel laws amid the dream of forcing more outlets to go out of business like Gawker, and disrupting the news cycle with increasingly off-his-meds 6 a.m. tweets.

But the end of net neutrality would mean Trump and his allies are going nuclear in their war on information. Without the controls adopted by past incarnations of the FCC, your internet carrier would be free to charge you more for certain content; imagine if Comcast or Verizon started charging you for packages of accelerated and accessible websites — a “news” package with CNN.com and Philly.com or a “sports” package with league websites or Deadspin. (That’s how they do it now in countries like Portugal that don’t have net neutrality.)

There’s more. An internet provider would have the power to slow down the delivery of sites (presumably ones that don’t pay or offer other perks in return for high speed) and it could block some altogether — like, for example, that sites that are dedicated to complaints from customers of Comcast or other telecoms. To civil liberties groups like the ALCU, ending net neutrality isn’t just a way for billion-dollar companies to squeeze a few extra bucks from consumers, but “also one of the foremost free speech issues of our time.” In explaining its opposition, the ACLU writes: “After all, freedom of expression isn’t worth much if the forums where people actually make use of it are not themselves free.”

Vice Motherboard’s Sam Gustin recently reported on why net neutrality is shaping up as the free speech issue of the Trump era, quoting Steven Renderos, an organizer for the Center for Media Justice: “Net neutrality is not simply about technology. It’s about the everyday people who use it and whether they will have the right to be heard online.”

The stifling of good information creates a world in which citizens decide which version of “the truth” they want to believe, often with disastrous consequences — the fantasy world that Trump and his true believers covet. If you want to go to Ground Zero for the war on information, go to Alabama, where as much as half or more of the electorate won’t believe Senate candidate Roy Moore is a sexual predator because the allegations were reported in the Washington Post, one of the news outlets that our Oval Office authoritarian has decreed as “fake.”

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

FCC stonewalled investigation of net neutrality comment fraud, NY AG says

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Net neutrality fraudsters likely impersonated “hundreds of thousands” of people.

New York’s attorney general has been trying to investigate fraud in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s anti-net neutrality plan but alleges that the FCC has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that “hundreds of thousands of Americans” were likely impersonated in fake comments on the net neutrality docket. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office would not provide information needed for New York’s investigation, Schneiderman wrote yesterday in an open letter to Pai:

[T]he process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities. Such conduct likely violates state law—yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.

The FCC received 22 million comments on its plan to repeal net neutrality rules and deregulate broadband providers, but many were fraudulent. In May, some of the people who were impersonated by anti-net neutrality spammers asked the Federal Communications Commission to notify other victims of the impersonation and remove fraudulent comments from the net neutrality docket.

But the FCC has seemingly taken no action to remove fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed.

On Twitter, Schneiderman described “a massive scheme that fraudulently used real Americans’ identities” in order to “drown out the views of real people and businesses.”

Here is New York State Attorney General’s Letter Eric Schneiderman’s Letter

F.C.C. Plans Net Neutrality Repeal in a Victory for Telecoms

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The Federal Communications Commission released a plan on Tuesday to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites.

The proposal, made by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites. They also prevent the companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services.

The announcement set off a fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom titans like AT&T and Verizon against internet giants like Google and Amazon. The internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. The telecom companies say that the existing rules prevent them from offering customers a wider selection of services at higher and lower price points.

Nothing to see here folks, just normal government for big business, by big business, and all for the best democracy that money can buy.

Big Cable’s pillow talk with FCC to forbid US states from writing own net neutrality rules

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The stomach-churning love-fest between the American cable industry and FCC Ajit Pai continues apace with Big Cable now pillow talking the federal regulator into how to prevent individual US states forming their own net neutrality protections.

Pai is expecting to call for a vote on dismantling net neutrality rules on December 14 – despite widespread opposition to the idea – but cable companies are worried that state legislators will simply write their own laws to effectively reintroduce them.

And so, joining a determined campaign by cable giants Verizon and Comcast to lobby against such actions, the wireless comms trade association CTIA has joined the fray, sending a letter to the FCC informing it how it can usurp such state efforts.

The CTIA even has its own simple anecdote to explain why it makes sense for the FCC to set the rules across the entire US: a train journey.

“A passenger riding on Amtrak between Washington D.C. and New York City travels through five different jurisdictions during the course of a 3.5-hour trip,” the letter argued. “If each of these jurisdictions were permitted to enforce its own rules regarding (for example) traffic prioritization, the rider’s mobile broadband usage during the trip would be subject to five different legal regimes, even if the rider spent the entire trip watching a single movie. This would be impracticable, and only underscores the risks inherent in a patchwork quilt of broadband regulation.”

The argument is, of course, gibberish: internet users pull content from all over the world every second of every day with it passing through hundreds of jurisdictions. And yet somehow the internet continues to function. How? Because internet traffic is not road or rail traffic.

Whether Pai and the other FCC commissioners are able to see through such obvious, false manipulation or get seduced by the appeal to their own importance, we will have to see. Or perhaps the bigger question: how far is Pai willing to go to please the cable industry? And is he prepared to make a fool of himself doing so? Infatuation is a difficult thing to judge.