Nothing but ‘net
The Trump administration is ready to jettison another Obama-era regulation in a win for Big Telecom, this time laying waste to “net neutrality” rules that mandate equal access to the internet by service providers.
The Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, who just won Senate approval for a five-year term, bowed to pressure from telecom giants to not only lift the federal regulations, but also ensure states can’t substitute their own regulations to require equal access.
The pressure may have been manufactured, though. The FCC began accepting comments in April and of the more than 22 million responses it received, the vast majority opposed net neutrality rules. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office analyzed the comments and determined hundreds of thousands came from fake accounts made up from stolen identities.
“My office analyzed the public comments submitted to the @FCC about #netneutrality—and found that 100,000s of Americans were likely impersonated to drown out the views of real people and businesses,” Schneiderman tweeted out.
At its simplest, net neutrality says Comcast, for instance, can’t charge Netflix more to have it streamed as fast as the cable company’s own on-demand service or slow Netflix down to make it unwatchable on Comcast customers’ devices.
Proponents of net neutrality say it portends even more dark and insidious ramifications. The absence of a mandate for equal access could not only create a fast lane/slow lane dynamic but, in theory, could exclude advocacy and minority groups whose views are not often popular with the majority of customers. Among the loudest voices calling for preservation of net neutrality are some of the biggest names in tech – Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Wikipedia, to name a handful.
Verizon owns Yahoo and could make that the default search engine on its internet service and then charge Google a premium to get access and speed as well. It could mean if AT&T goes through with its planned merger with Time Warner, which owns CNN, the company could put the brakes on Fox News or MSNBC and push viewers to its preferred news outlet, and, in turn, its advertisers.
Mobile, cable, and fiber optic internet providers say those scenarios are fake news and it would only hurt them if they limited what was available because customers would go to another service that has more options. They claim the Obama administration overreached and overreacted when it instituted the regulations. They say the rules inhibit investment in broadband and, in the end, do more harm than good.
Supporters of the FCC move say it’s not up to the very political agency to set regulations but more to implement and enforce laws. They claim it’s up to Congress to codify net neutrality, which they’ve declined to do, which prompted the move by the then-Democratic dominated FCC under former president Barack Obama.
That, though, could also give some hope to the “Free the Internet” crowd who could look for changes in Congress and the White House between now and 2020.
“As good as the FCC’s action is for [Internet Service Providers], it only assures nonregulation of broadband through 2020,” Paul Gallant, an analyst at the research firm Cowen told the New York Times.
Gov. Charlie Baker changed his stance on distracted driving legislation, coming out in support of a ban on all hand-held devices. (State House News) The governor also signed into law a bond bill authorizing $45 million for western Massachusetts broadband. (MassLive)
Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and economic development, joined high-level talks between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Worcester officials about moving the team to Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)
A Herald editorial calls for the Legislature and governor’s office to shed their exemption from the state public records law — though it rates the chances of that “a long shot” since the ones who would have to enact such change “benefit from the status quo.”
Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield said it may be time for the Berkshire Museum to broker some sort of compromise with opponents of its plan to sell off artwork to put the museum on sound financial footing. (Berkshire Eagle)
An Appeals Court panel heard arguments yesterday from Carlos Henriquez’s attorney on why they should overturn the former state rep’s 2014 assault conviction that led to his expulsion from the House. (Boston Herald)
A former Sandwich firefighter has reached a settlement in his suit against town officials that claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired after putting up a lawn sign opposing an override question for a $30 million public safety complex. (Cape Cod Times)
Two people were killed in an overnight fire in Boston’s North End, the first fire fatalities in the city in 2017. (Boston Globe)
Peabody reached a settlement with a fire dispatcher who was fired 12 years ago for falling asleep and missing an emergency call. The dispatcher was reinstated after a judge said the punishment was excessive but was fired again by city officials. The dispatcher sued, claiming the city did not comply with the court judgment. (Salem News)
The latest sexual harassment charges: US Rep. John Conyers of Michigan paid $27,000 to settle a complaint (Time); Pixar’s John Lasseter takes a leave of absence. (Time); Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas says the national team doctor abused her (Time)
President Trump defended embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore against charges of sexual misconduct, saying the former Alabama judge “totally denies” the accusations from women who were as young as 14 when Moore, then in his 30s, allegedly made advances. (New York Times)
Joe Battenfeld interviews Alexandra Chandler, a candidate in the Third Congressional District race who would be the first transgender member of Congress if elected. (Boston Herald)
Groups pushing for a cut in the sales tax, an increase in the minimum wage to $15, and a paid family and medical leave proposal say they have enough signatures to put their measures on the ballot. (State House News)
Facebook is allowing advertisers to bar people who are black, Hispanic, or other “ethnic affinities” from seeing an ad, which appears to be a violation of federal law. (ProPublica)
Uber covered up a 2016 data breach in which hackers stole information on 57 million riders and drivers before the company paid $100,000 ransom to delete the data and got the hackers to sign a nondisclosure agreement. (New York Times)
Virgin Pulse, a health technology company owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, is moving its global headquarters from Framingham to Providence. (MetroWest Daily News)
The US Department of Justice says it has opened an investigation into whether Harvard has violated civil rights law in limiting the admission of Asian-American applicants. (Boston Globe)
UMass Lowell plans to sell its abandoned west campus in Chelmsford. (Lowell Sun)
Mass. Eye and Ear leaders make their case for a merger with Partners HealthCare System, a deal that has drawn a critical review from the state’s Health Policy Commission. (Boston Globe)
Chantelle Marcial calls for lawmakers to back legislation that would give doctors more control over which drugs they prescribe; she says the step therapy used by insurers is really just a fail first approach,. (CommonWealth)
Tufts Medical Center officials warn that nurses there may stage another walkout sometime around Christmas. (Boston Globe)
Elite Airways will begin weekly commercial flights from New Bedford Regional Airport to Vero Beach, Florida, beginning next month for the holiday season and could expand to more frequent trips if successful. (Standard-Times)
A Lowell Sun editorial praises the progress being made at the MBTA, but says a lot of work remains on commuter rail service.
The T is spending nearly $100,000 on office upgrades in the suite where new GM Luis Ramirez and other top officials work. (Boston Herald)
Chris Dempsey of Transportation for Massachusetts raises a bunch of interesting questions about the state’s transportation future, but doesn’t provide too many answers. (MetroWest Daily News)
A new, $2 million dredge purchased by Barnstable County arrived three months late and remains docked because of mechanical issues stemming from manufacturing problems, causing nearly a dozen scheduled dredging projects around the Cape to be put on hold and creating safety issues. (Cape Cod Times)
The lawyer for two state troopers who have filed suit after being ordered to alter the arrest report for a Worcester County judge’s daughter says it’s “ludicrous” that they must now work under the supervision of one of the defendants they are suing. (Boston Herald) Howie Carr connects a lot of dots in the case, including some that connect to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Baker public safety secretary Daniel Bennett. (Boston Herald)
The Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica will open a wing for younger offenders as part of an effort to target the group with special programs aimed at reducing recidivism. (Boston Globe)
Somerville court clerk Robert Tomasone has been suspended for two weeks in connection with allegations that he asked a court secretary to do private business for him during work hours. (Boston Globe)
The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, has built a side business around the software it uses to post content online. (Fast Company)PASSINGS
Jack E. Robinson, a successful businessman who had less luck as a gadfly Republican candidate for several offices in Massachusetts, was found dead in his Duxbury home at age 57. (Boston Globe)