Big telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon have been stressing out as states like California move closer and closer to enacting meaningful net neutrality consumer protections. In the wake of telecom shill and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai’s rollback of those protections at the federal level, telecoms now realize that there is more to do now that the grassroots movements in America have become more activated than ever. To that end, AT&T and Verizon have not been able to have the decency to keep up the illusion that they aren’t greed-driven psychopaths who are willing to create internet fast lanes at the drop of a hat while also throttling emergency services in order to make a few more dollars a month. Motherboard has a purported recording of one of the robocalls, and in it a woman explains:
“Your Assembly member will be voting on a proposal by San Francisco politicians that could increase your cellphone bill by $30 a month and slow down your data,” says a voice on an automated call paid for by legal reform group the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC). “We can't afford higher cell phone bills. We can't afford slower data. We can't afford Senate Bill 822.”
The woman begins by explaining that the call she is making is on behalf of the Congress of California Seniors (CCS) and the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC). CCS’s website shows their “supporters”—a who’s who of telecoms and energy companies, including top-billing for AT&T and Verizon. Verizon has told Ars Technica that they have no idea about these calls, while originally AT&T “declined to comment.” In the time since I began this diary, AT&T has told Ars Technica that they “did not fund this robocall.”
The robocalls cite no evidence supporting the claim that net neutrality rules will raise cell phone bills and slow down Internet service. The bill in question would impose net neutrality rules in California that are nearly identical to the ones the Federal Communications Commission had on the books between 2015 and 2018. Since the federal version of the rules did not raise cell phone bills by $30 or slow down Internet speeds, there's no reason to believe that imposing similar rules in California would have that effect.
Last year, when Ajit Pai and his telecom cronies began weathering the legitimate blowback they were getting for announcing the end of net neutrality protections, the FCC threw out a meaningless smokescreen: telecoms would have the “right” to block robocalls. Yay? Sort of toothless to give the fox the keys to the henhouse to block other foxes. Even more toothless when you consider that it used to be against the law for companies to robocall your cell phones at all.
Companies like AT&T and Verizon have the ability to spread information in an unparalleled way because they own all of the “tubes.” So far, they have shown that they are willing to use both humans and robots to do anything at all possible to provide cover for their unpopular and unproductive avarice.