Pluralistic: 14 Apr 2021

Today's links

The FCC wants your broadband measurements (permalink)

The FCC long epitomized "regulatory capture" – an agency whose leadership worked a revolving door with the industry it oversees; a crooked beat-cop who served as willing accomplice to decades of fraud, leaving Americans to struggle with overpriced, underperforming broadband.

There have been many terrible FCC chairs and commissioners, but even in that crowded, manure-strewn field, one man stands out as the worst FCC chair in American history, Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer who became Trump's FCC chairman.

Pai set many precedents, such as accepting millions of comments in support of his anti-Net Neutrality order even though they came from dead people, people whose identities had been stolen, and a series of random strings prepended to "".

Although he resigned last year, he continues to set precedent, refusing to surrender his official Twitter account after leaving office, and blocking his critics, Americans who are therefore excluded from the public records of his FCC activities.

Any successor to Pai was going to be an improvement, but Biden's FCC chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, is shaping up to be objectively fantastic.

Last month, she issued a call for Americans to create an official record of their disappointments with their ISPs.

The Rosenworcel hits keep coming! This month, she inaugurated an objective, data-driven survey of American broadband performance, calling on Americans to use and report speed-test apps that document their shitty, overpriced connectivity.

The FCC Speed Test App was first released in 2014 and has been under development ever since, but Ajit Pai studiously ignored these results in favor of the rosily juked stats the telecoms industry frauded up for the FCC's delectation.

The news that the FCC is using its own 7-year-old app to gather data on real-world broadband performance shouldn't be surprising and uplifting, but it is. It's a tribute to just how uniquely terrible Pai's run was, and what a great monster of history he turned out to be.

After a year of lockdown when the American people relied on broadband to deliver employment, education, health, family life, civics, politics, as well as news and entertainment, the unforgivable nature of Pai's rule became undeniable.

Pai was the worst, but he was carrying out a long tradition of official FCC forbearance for underinvestment, monopoly and price-gouging. We can't afford that any longer – and, it seems that with Rosenworcel, we won't be asked to.

(Image: jacme31, CC BY-SA, modified; Fly, CC BY, modified)

Murder Offsets (permalink)

The Climate Ad Project's "Murder Offsets" PSA is a brilliant anti-greenwashing piece, comparing the way environmental criminals buy "carbon offsets" for their pollution to a system where murderers escape culpability by buying "murder offsets."

To be sure, markets created the climate emergency by allowing firms to reduce their costs by externalizing them on the rest of us – juicing profits by polluting rather than switching to cleaner, more expensive production techniques.

But it doesn't follow that markets will solve these problems if only weforce firms to internalize these external costs – say, by creating carbon offsets with tradeable credits.

The externalizing of costs didn't occur in a vacuum: it was deliberate, and self-accellerating.

Executives at companies like Exxon knew they were on track to literally drive our species to the brink of extinction.

They diverted some of the profits they received from this externalizing activity to a sophisticated disinformation campaign to create climate denial.

The idea that these executives simple "responded to incentives" – rather than the idea that they are deliberate, cold- blooded murderers – is laughably naive.

This is why all "green" investing ends up being a market for lemons, with "Environmental, Social, and Governance" (ESG) funds stuffed full of the world's worst polluters, from fast fashion companies to giant oil companies.

It's why carbon pricing is disfavored by the people who've done the deepest work on the scale of the crisis and the likely outcomes from different interventions, like the authors of the excellent "Making Climate Policy Work":

Cap-and-trade isn't working. The Paris Accord targets fall short of what's needed, and what's been done falls short of the Paris Accord.

Cap-and-trade implies that there's a "right way" to do carbon-intensive industry, and moreover, that the market will find it. As the Murder Offsets video makes clear, this is absurd.

If an activity threatens our species, decisions about whether and when it will be carried out should be determined by democratically accountable governments with evidence from experts – not from CEOs buying free-market indulgences to absolve themselves of responsibility.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Yochai Benkler releases new book under CC license

#15yrsago Scientific management’s unscientific grounding: the Management Myth

#5yrsago How the UK’s biggest pharmacy chain went from family-run public service to debt-laden hedge-fund disaster

#5yrsago Brussels terrorists kept their plans in an unencrypted folder called “TARGET”

#1yrago Abolish Silicon Valley: memoir of a driven startup founder who became an anti-capitalist activist

#1yrago Amazon fires tech workers for their warehouse worker solidarity

#1yrago Ticketmaster ends refunds for canceled events

Colophon (permalink)

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