MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi got absolutely destroyed during an interview Thursday with former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell about net neutrality.
Velshi got increasingly frustrated throughout the interview, even getting angry at his guest at one point for citing the laws that govern internet regulation.
McDowell kicked off the interview by explaining that net neutrality, which applies Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband internet networks, wasn’t created until February of 2015.
He responded to Velshi’s argument that repealing net neutrality might freeze out startups, reminding him that new tech companies like Facebook were created well before 2015.
“So, you have the Federal Trade Commission Act, for instance, you have the Clayton Act and the Sherman Act,” McDowell said. “Those are three very powerful federal statutes that kept the internet open and free prior to February of 2015.”
“What Title II [net neutrality] has done, in the wireless space anyway, is reduce investment in the past two years by 18 percent,” he continued. “We need about $300 billion over the next decade to build out [5G] networks and every independent Wall Street analyst I’ve spoken with says…the 1,000 requirements of Title II has created tremendous uncertainty.”
Velshi, watching his narrative slipping away right in front of his eyes, came up with a scenario where Facebook could subsidize faster internet speeds in exchange for preferential treatment, reducing competition in the overall marketplace.
“Section I and Section II of Sherman Act and Section III of Clayton Act…you just triggered all three of those sections,” McDowell smoothly responded. “That would be an anti-trust violation…that was against the law before February 2015 and it will be against the laws of today.”
Velshi chastised McDowell for “dropping a lot of legal names,” asserting that the scenario he described “does happen.”
“People bundle the services they own–why does AT&T offer DirecTV free as opposed to Verizon TV?” Velshi asked.
“You can bundle services, what you can’t do is shut out other people,” McDowell explained.
“Look, I just feel like we’re having a really unfair conversation here, I’m trying to have a conversation on the merits of the principle of unintended consequences,” Velshi whined. “And you’re dropping a lot of legal-ese.”
“The legal-ese is the merits though, Ali,” McDowell asserted. “That’s what’s at play here, and maybe you haven’t read these laws.”
“I’m very familiar with net neutrality,” Velshi snarked back. “I’m really not that familiar with being condescended to.”
McDowell again reminded Velshi that the internet grew for 20 years before net neutrality and insisted that the aforementioned scenarios Velshi warned of are already considered illegal.
“You’ve come to this show ready for an argument that I’m not giving you!” Velshi explained when McDowell insisted consumers were not going to unprotected without net neutrality.
McDowell tried to repeat Velshi’s argument back to him, stating, “okay so you’re talking about consumers and entrepreneurs and discrimination of your own products, like a Comcast provider?”
“That’s NOT what I’m telling you!” Velshi claimed, even though earlier in the interview he was talking about companies giving preferential treatment to their own products.
McDowell shook his head incredulously, as Velshi exclaimed that they would need to revisit their conversation at another time.
“I’m saying that if someone has an advantage in streaming their content over the internet…because they got the money to buy better…access,” Velshi said, “then the incumbent is favored over the startup, that’s the only point I wanted to make!”
“And that would be illegal, that’s the point I’m making,” McDowell responded. “It has been a for a long time and will be going forward, so it’s good news.”
“Sorry it’s good news,” he finished. “I know it’s good clickbait to say the internet is being destroyed and it’s not.”