Opinion

OPINION: Leftist Tech Media No Friend To Internet Consumers

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Johnny Kampis Contributor

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed reforms this week that should greatly aid the growth of 5G, the wireless technology of the future, by limiting what local governments can charge carriers for reviewing permits for the needed small-cell technology.

The order also limits how long regulators have to review the applications and allows them to apply reasonable aesthetic considerations. These are significant steps in closing the digital divide.

“The smart infrastructure policies we adopt today strengthen America’s role as a tech and economic leader while ensuring that every community benefits from 5G,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr, who Chairman Ajit Pai tapped to lead the wireless effort. “Today’s order streamlines the approval process for 5G small cells and helps ensure that our country will continue to be the innovation hub of the world.”

Certainly sounds like a win for innovation, as well as for consumers who could benefit from the blazing speeds (1 gigabit per second and up) promised by 5G. Doesn’t it?

Not if you listen to the leftist tech media.

Ars Technica framed the effort as protecting companies like AT&T and Verizon from having to pay sufficient fees.

“The Federal Communications Commission’s plan for spurring 5G wireless deployment will prevent city and town governments from charging carriers about $2 billion worth of fees,” said the piece.

I seem to recall from Business 101 that increased costs to businesses tend to be passed on to customers. So either the writers at Ars Technica never took business classes or they support big government at the expense of consumers.

The Verge framed the issue as the FCC rushing those poor bureaucrats in the towns and cities of America. “FCC passes order limiting cities’ review of 5G deployment” read the headline there.

How rushed are they? Local governments have 90 days to approve or deny wireless facility deployment, a number reduced to 60 days if the proposed 5G transmitter is an addition to an existing facility. Maybe this is rushed in the world of bureaucrats, but it’s the speed of a slug in the business world.

“FCC cracks the whip on 5G deployment against protests of local governments,” read the headline at TechCrunch.

Who’s doing the most complaining? Officials from big cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York City who are used to charging onerous fees and taxes on local businesses and residents. In Philadelphia, energy drinks can now cost more than beer thanks to the city’s soda tax.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh blanched at the annual fee of $270 per pole attachment the FCC is establishing in the order, calling the number “unconscionable when the facility may yield profits, in some cases, many times that much in a given month.”

So, Pugh believes that Baltimore coffers should reap fees not based on the actual costs to the city, but should grab as big a piece of the profits as possible. To her (and TechCrunch, since it highlighted the quote in its story) 5G isn’t a panacea for internet-starved consumers, it’s a revenue generator for local governments. Notice, too, that Pugh said “in some cases,” not in all cases. The city’s supposed to grab its share whether the carrier makes money or not, evidently.

Government officials from smaller locales are looking to help their citizens rather than fill their coffers. Pensacola, Florida, Mayor Ashton Hayward told the FCC he appreciated the panel’s efforts “to establish some common-sense standards.”

Unfortunately, we have seen a cottage of industry consultants emerge who have wrongly counseled communities to adopt excessive and arbitrary fees,” he wrote. “This approach results in nothing more than telecom providers being required to spend limited investment dollars on fees as opposed to spending those limited resources on the type of high-speed infrastructure that is so important in our community.”

A bevy of groups who represent underserved and disadvantaged communities supported the order, including the likes of LGBT Tech, National Rural Health Association, National Black Growers Council, American Council of the Blind and American Agri-Women.

This latest 5G order is just the latest example of how the tech media has skewed the issues. Exhibit A is so-called “net neutrality,” as framed by the left, who pitched the FCC’s reversal of an FCC 2015 order as Republicans’ plans to destroy the internet.

The opposite was true: the onerous regulations placed on internet service providers by the previous Democratic-led FCC was harming investment and inhibiting internet growth. And, yes, the right wants to give ISPs the ability to prioritize telemedicine over funny animal videos, which is why so many health associations support their effort.

Instead, both the tech media and the left-leaning mainstream media have practically brainwashed the American public to help out their buddies at Netflix, Amazon and Google, who are happy to place regulations on ISPs since it only helps them.

I can give two stark examples from liberal friends to explain how the issue is misunderstood. One former high school classmate who I’ve debated the “net neutrality” issue with tagged me in a Facebook post from a friend of his who complained about his internet being seemingly slower after the Restoring Internet Freedom Order took effect in June. No, it wasn’t certain websites like Netflix or Google-owned YouTube that were slower — his entire internet was supposedly slower.

Explain to me the logic of this guy’s ISP deciding to slow his internet just for the heck of it. Sounds like a sure way to get him to look for another provider, doesn’t it?

The second friend from college told me he was worried the speed of his website about University of Alabama football would be slowed to a crawl. This is a website created on the most rudimentary of website development programs with absolutely no bells and/or whistles. It’s the last thing that ISPs would be looking to throttle since it takes practically no data to access.

But the leftist media made it sound like the entire internet was about to come crashing down. Now here we are more than 100 days later and everything is just fine — as it was in the two decades before the FCC created that 2015 order.

That’s why anyone reading the latest reports on the 5G order passed Wednesday should take the news with a grain of salt. The measure is designed to help the growth of high-speed internet and the spread of access, despite what those on the left would have you believe.

Johnny Kampis is investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.