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Ajit Pai wants to reverse BitTorrent decision

by on24 November 2017

FCC made a mistake allowing its existence

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who appears to have set a goal of sending the US internet into the dark ages, is digging up an old rule which stopped telcos from killing off BitTorrent.

Pai thinks it was a mistake for the FCC to try and stop Comcast from blocking BitTorrent in 2008, and thinks all of the regulatory actions the FCC took after that to give itself the authority to prevent blocking were wrong.

To do that he wants to turn back the clock to the legal framework that allowed Comcast to block BitTorrent.

For those who are too young to remember, the 2008 Comcast-BitTorrent Order allowed the Commission to directly enforce federal internet policy when the telcos significantly impeded consumers’ ability to access the content and use the applications of their choice.

The FCC couldn’t stop Comcast from blocking BitTorrent in 2008, it changed the rules so it would have that power, and Pai wants to undo that change and give Comcast the power to block internet services like BitTorrent once again.

Pai claims that the FCC did not need those sorts of powers and Comcast blocking BitTorrent could have been challenged under antitrust and consumer protection laws on a case-by-case basis. However, there is a small problem here about who would actually make the complaint. Taking on Comcast is an expensive option and out of the pockets of most people.

To make matters worse, even if it did win, the precedents don’t have much weight. It will not take long for the general public and consumer rights groups to realise that taking on the telcos is too rich for their legal budgets. This is exactly the sort of thing that a government regulator should be doing.

Pai claims the rules will “significantly reduce the likelihood” that ISPs like Comcast will engage in behaviour that harm consumers. Given the way that the US telcos are working, that is outright naïve, stupid or just mouthing whatever the telcos tell him.

This might all seem weird for Europeans, but in the so called “Land of the Free”, half the country has only one choice of broadband provider. One of the reasons for this is that telcos have gone out of their way to block states setting up city wide broadband to compete against the private monopolies.

As a result, the US has shocking internet coverage for a first world country. The telcos are mostly interested in milking customers with the technology they have rather than investing in expensive new systems.

What the US needed was a strong FCC which would stand up to the telcos and force competition. What Pai is providing is the opposite. With his unwinding of net neutrality rules, Pai is going to create a situation where the US broadband network will degenerate to a couple of bean cans tied together with string, while mobile will go back to the days of sending a pigeon. Meanwhile the telcos will be charging an arm and a leg for that piss poor service.

It is hard to see any logic for Pai's actions. He will go down in history as the man who single handedly broke the US internet and rendered it largely unusable.  No one should really want to be that much of an idiot and be proud of it.

Last modified on 24 November 2017
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