Santa Clara “Net Neutrality” Throttling “Violation” Goes Up In Smoke

by Mike Wendy on August 29, 2018

Last week, when several states filed their joint brief urging overturn of the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIF), a fire storm broke out. In it was the declaration from Santa Clara County fire chief, Tony Bowden, that his department’s efforts to stop the Mendocino Complex fire were hampered by Verizon’s throttling of a wireless device in the county’s mobile command center.

Verizon claims it was a customer service error and misunderstanding, and that they handled it poorly; it won’t happen again. But that was automatically discounted by the Net Neutrality zealots who had their own burning “truth” to yell.

On cue, out from the woodwork came all the former officials who wrote Obama’s Title II Net Neutrality rule; its supportive legislators; the hack, pro-Net Neutrality press; and the professional activists – in a single voice screaming (I paraphrase):

“Aha! Verizon was throttling and that’s a Net Neutrality violation. But, because the rules aren’t around any longer, Santa Clara (and the next Santa Clara) can’t be helped. Public safety has been jeopardized by Donald Trump and his AWOL FCC. The world is on fire. How dare they!”

Quite simply, this is a hot mess of a lie.

From the very start, the whole exercise has smelled of political theater. You see, there’s a (dubious) Net Neutrality bill moving through California’s assembly right now. National, pro-Net Neutrality forces see its passage as being critical to goosing passage of a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the RIF.

They got their plates working on all the burners. Bowden’s statement in the filing was just the right accelerant to fuel the outrage and keep the pro-Net Neutrality heat up high.

But it’s a deception – a cheap, distorting, fake news prevarication.

The throttling WAS NOT A NET NEUTRALITY VIOLATION and could not have been “prevented” by Obama’s proscriptive rules. Reasonable network management / disclosed neutral throttling has always been allowed (which this was).  Moreover, the states’ brief goes out of its way to disabuse readers that the incident had anything to do with Net Neutrality, conspicuously noting:

“Government Petitioners do not contend that this throttling would have violated the 2015 Order…”

But no mind. That inconvenient truth wasn’t going to stop the narrative. Facts be damned, such as:

  • When Chief Bowden testified for over 45 minutes last week before a California Assembly committee on the matter, he never once mentioned that the lack of Net Neutrality rules (or anything to do with the matter) caused the dispute.
  • That, according to the Chief, it wasn’t such a big deal, stating “We had a short period of reduced downtime, but we were able to maintain operations [through workarounds and a redundant provider], and it did not impact the operations of that fire.”
  • That the Chief’s main concerns were “hardening” cell site infrastructure to better withstand natural disasters; adequate coverage in remote areas; and balancing the budget implications of proper wireless plans which sit largely unused until “spikes” in natural disasters occur.
  • Finally, when given the chance at the end of the hearing for public comment, not one person did. Stated differently, if Net Neutrality was such a big problem, where were those people to decry it?  AWOL – because the outrage was manufactured.

At the end of the day, Santa Clara’s throttling dispute was simply a mix-up of communications and operational mistakes by both SCCFD and Verizon, and nothing more.

The issue of Net Neutrality was a bogus smoke signal from the start.

The national, pro-Net Neuties knew this, but, heck, why let the facts get in the way of a good fire.

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