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FCC Commissioner Says the Agency Is a Shill for ISPs as She Slams the Door on Her Way Out

Illustration for article titled FCC Commissioner Says the Agency Is a Shill for ISPs as She Slams the Door on Her Way Outem/em
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In an interview just prior to leaving the FCC this month, former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took aim at the agency where she worked for nearly nine years, saying it has abandoned its mission to safeguard consumers and protect their privacy and speech.

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Clyburn, a net neutrality proponent who served as interim FCC chief in 2013, equated the FCC’s mission to the Starfleet Prime Directive, saying the agency’s top priority is to ensure “affordable, efficient, and effective” access to communications—a directive it has effectively deserted under the new administration, working instead to advance the causes of “last-mile monopolies.”

Clyburn spoke to Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin during a phone interview shortly before she left the agency this month.

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“I’m an old Trekkie,” she said. “I go back to my core, my prime directive of putting consumers first.”

Clyburn said that, whereas some of her colleagues shied away from their role as a government regulator, she had embraced it, particularly when it came to internet service providers (ISPs). “Let’s face it,” she told Ars, ISPs are “last-mile monopolies.”

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need regulation,” Clyburn continued. “We don’t live in an ideal world, all markets are not competitive, and when that is the case, that is why agencies like the FCC were constructed. We are here as a substitute for competition.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Trump’s pick to lead the agency, has taken an aggressive stance against regulation of virtually any kind, adopting a laissez-faire attitude toward broadband rules in particular.

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But a free market approach to broadband seems unlikely to restrain the handful of companies that control the industry from screwing consumers at every turn. The FCC’s own data shows that roughly 40 percent of Americans have only a single option when it comes to broadband service.

Without practical regulation to restrain companies like Comcast—which is famous for price gouging—the industry is free to run roughshod over the American consumer and small business owners; namely by throttling and censoring online content and services. This is something major ISPs are already known to do, despite all the FCC chairman’s disingenuous talk about “internet freedom” and “light-touch” regulation.

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“If you don’t regulate appropriately, things go too far one way or the other,” Clyburn said, “and we either have prices that are too high or an insufficient amount of resources or applications or services to meet the needs of Americans.”

You can read Clyburn’s full interview over at Ars Technica.

Got a tip about shady ISP activity? Contact the author: dell@gizmodo.com

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Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

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DISCUSSION

mrgoodbeer
mrgoodbeer

Sounds like she’s wrong about the FCC’s mission. I know it’s Wikipedia, but:

Mission and strategy[edit]

The FCC’s mission, specified in Section One of the Communications Act of 1934 and amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (amendment to 47 U.S.C. §151) is to “make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

The Act furthermore provides that the FCC was created “for the purpose of the national defense” and “for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications.”[4]

Consistent with the objectives of the Act as well as the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), the FCC has identified six goals in its 2006–2011 Strategic Plan. These are:

Broadband”All Americans should have affordable access to robust and reliable broadband products and services. Regulatory policies must promote technological neutrality, competition, investment, and innovation to ensure that broadband service providers have sufficient incentives to develop and offer such products and services.”Competition”Competition in the provision of communication services, both domestically and overseas, supports the Nation’s economy. The competitive framework for communications services should foster innovation and offer consumers reliable, meaningful choice in affordable services.”Spectrum”Efficient and effective use of non-federal spectrum domestically and internationally promotes the growth and rapid development of innovative and efficient communication technologies and services.”Media”The Nation’s media regulations must promote competition and diversity and facilitate the transition to digital modes of delivery.”Public Safety and Homeland Security”Communications during emergencies and crisis must be available for public safety, health, defense, and emergency personnel, as well as all consumers in need. The Nation’s critical communications infrastructure must be reliable, interoperable, redundant, and rapidly restorable.”Modernize the FCC”The Commission shall strive to be highly productive, adaptive, and innovative organization that maximizes the benefits to stakeholders, staff, and management from effective systems, processes, resources, and organizational culture.”[4] (2008).