Observations from Tech Writer Karl Bode - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 379

If you're a regular reader of MuniNetworks.org, you've seen Karl Bode's name and it's almost certain you've read his work elsewhere. Karl has had his finger on the pulse of telecom, broadband, and related legislative events for a long time.

This week, Karl comes on the show to talk about how his career trajectory led to where he is right now, the surprising and unsurprising things he's seen, and how media coverage of telecom and technology has changed over the years. There are some issues, notes Karl, that should be handled more aggressively both in developing policy and in how the media covers them. The impact of large monopolistic Internet service providers, privacy concerns, and network neutrality are a few matters that affect us more than most people realize. 

Christopher and Karl talk about the FCC and corruption of the commenting system that surrounded the decision to retract federal network neutrality protections. They also talk about Washington D.C.'s different attitudes toward big tech companies such as Google and Facebook versus big ISPs like AT&T and Comcast.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Karl Bode: Starting locally, fighting locally ⁠— that's where people win. That's where the process hasn't been quite so corrupted over a period of 50 years, you know, so the local fights are super important.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 379 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. There's a limited number of reporters that write about technology and developments in telecommunications and even fewer that keep tabs on related legislation. This week, Christopher sat down with one of the leading writers who has been covering these fields for decades, Karl Bode. Including years contributing to DSL Reports. Karl's work has appeared in Vice, Techdirt, Medium, and a long list of other publications. In this interview, Christopher and Karl discuss how coverage has changed over time and how his focus has changed due to forces in the industry. Karl and Christopher also discussed policy, including events at the FCC surrounding network neutrality, competition and monopolies, and a recent congressional investigation into privacy and social media. Karl has some opinions about what can, should, and might happen and he has years of observation on which to base his ideas. Now, here's Christopher with analyst and writer Karl Bode.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and I'm in Minneapolis per usual, today talking with Karl Bode, someone who, if you're listening to this show, I'm sure you've run across. He's a long time freelance writer and also a longtime analyst of what happens in the broadband space in particular. Welcome to the show, Karl.

Karl Bode: Hey Chris. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me just ask you if you want to give us a bit of a background because frankly, I've known you from your writing mostly, and I'm trying to figure out how you've been writing for 20 years when you look like you're 27 years old.

Karl Bode: Well, that's fortune. I was very lucky to stumble into the opportunity. I went to New York and to make ends meet I kind of fell into the legal industry IT. So I did a lot of it work in law firms for awhile and kind of as a little hobby I started investigating this new thing called DSL that was popping up. I had been going town to town, city to city installing frame relay, trying to get our offices up and running. So I spent a lot of time working with Verizon and confused as to why very simple things would be immensely complicated, so I started to dig into this and eventually I got hired by a website called DSL Reports that I was a frequenter at to just write about the industry. You know, we would just would spend days just writing about the latest broadband advancement, which companies were upgrading their networks quickly, which ones weren't, and it didn't take long before 10 years had gone by and I've been doing this for a long time. Eventually I decided to expand out into more freelance opportunities, and that's where we are now.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I think for those of us who came along later, because I came into this in 2007, you know, you are someone who had been here forever, and I just sort of assumed that DSL reports was your website. You get that a lot I think.

Karl Bode: Yeah, I did. Yeah. Justin Beech actually ran that website out of Australia, and he's kind of lost interest in it over the years. I was just the only person that was the face of the website, mostly writing all the content and talking about what new and odd things Comcast had done bad that week. I think I literally spent about five years writing about Comcast installers making blunders in installs and falling asleep on people's couches and accidentally burning houses down. I think there was a good five year stretch where that's pretty much all I wrote about because it was happening constantly.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. Yeah. I mean, you and Phil Dampier are the two people that I feel like who ⁠— you know, in this era in which, you had that kind of expertise building in your brain of all these years of experience, but being from a site called DSL Reports or showing up now on Vice, I feel like people don't take you as seriously as they would if you just had a byline from the Washington Post and even less knowledge than you do.

Karl Bode: Yeah. You're absolutely right. Yeah, I mean, access journalism is a big deal of course, you know, but you really do learn something. You study, you write about the same companies for 15 years, and you write about the government and the way it's manipulated by lobbyists for 15 straight years, and you will learn a lot. I stumbled into it interested in tech and interested in broadband, and I quickly came away kind of fascinated with the the way lobbyists manipulate government, as you know, with all the laws that they've passed to prohibit community broadband access or the laws they pass to ensure nobody can develop creative local broadband alternatives. That stuff quickly got very interesting to me, so I tend to focus on that.

Christopher Mitchell: I just wrote about that for the American Conservative, just published this morning actually. So as people are listening to this when it's released if they're catching it, which will be tomorrow, it will still be live and perhaps there'll be a lively thread in the comments section. I'm hoping more people get a sense of exactly what you're talking about, which is that this is not like a left or right issue. It's really about lobbyists shenanigans in many ways.

Karl Bode: Yeah, absolutely. I really get frustrated by the partisan labels on everything because, you know, on an issue like net neutrality, you saw survey after survey showing that the bipartisan majority of Americans wanted some rules of the road that would keep Comcast and AT&T from abusing their monopoly power. I mean, people wanted this, they expected it, and instead they got lobbyists literally shaping policy, you know, to the complete detriment of consumers and healthy competition. And it's just very frustrating to watch it get bogged down in very literal "he said, she said," "the left said this, the right said this," when the reality is that people want good broadband. They wanted at a decent rate, you know. None of this is that complicated.

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Karl Bode: And what's happening is these companies have such immense control over the state and federal legislatures that that just gets lost in the mix constantly, year after year.

Christopher Mitchell: You said something interesting there, I think, which is that people want good broadband, and I think a lot of people say people want a choice in broadband. And I'm curious if you want to . . . I mean, do you really think ⁠— to me, this gets down to, I think you've got it right in what you just said because I think people want a choice when they're dissatisfied, but fundamentally people don't want to switch providers every six months hunting for a new deal or changing their email address or whatever. I think people just want a good service.

Karl Bode: Yeah, absolutely. They want to be able to switch quickly. They don't, you know ⁠— I mean, even in places where there's quote unquote competition in this country, it's usually a cable provider and a telco that hasn't upgraded their DSL lines in the last 15 years and that's not real ⁠— so they're going to stay with cable. It's simpler. They know they're being ripped off, but it's simpler so they'll just stick with it. As these phone companies slowly, you know, give up on upgrading their DSL lines, Comcast is actually getting more powerful, and a lot of people aren't really noticing it. You know, the hype of 5G wireless is everyone thinking that everything's going to be super competitive in no time, and that's just not the case, you know?

Christopher Mitchell: Well you know, as people know, we do have it in some parts of some NFL stadiums now, so it's only a matter of time, right?

Karl Bode: Yes, the nosebleed seats can get great one gigabit access as if they'd actually use that.

Christopher Mitchell: I mean, I feel like in my mind I am convinced that having competition in a lot of areas is important to achieving people having good access, but fundamentally, I think it's worth remembering, like, people don't really want to be choosing different things in this case. Like, they just want something that works and so . . .

Karl Bode: No, yeah. Especially when these companies make it a pain to switch or to, you know, compare services. I mean, they make it as difficult as possible to not only compare what the actual price is because they're so bloated with fees, they make it hard to switch, and people don't want that. Yeah, they want simplicity. I was always fascinated with that project in Idaho, I think it was, where you can literally switch ISPs in a matter of seconds. You can go on the website and say, "All right, I'm done with you. I'm going to go over here and try that one for awhile." And I think that makes the most sense to me, some kind of open access model where you can literally switch in seconds, you know, but we've never embraced that.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I'm really curious to see what happens with that, like looking at the data, if people are switching fairly regularly. My sense is at this point, they are not. But actually, that network just got profiled by Fast Company, and I think we're going to see that type of network expand in the next few months in ways that are going to be exciting to other cities and things like that. But anyway, I want to nail you down on something before we go back to talking about the FCC and net neutrality again and the comment system, and that's just ⁠— we've talked a little bit about how things have changed over the last 15 years, but you know, if you were to look back, I mean, what is different now from how you thought it would be in the year 2020 effectively?

Karl Bode: You know, I really expected a little more progress on the discourse levels, but we get locked into this rigid partisan thinking that I was talking about previously. You know, we get so locked into that, and that used to be a problem and now it's so much worse. And I honestly think cable companies kind of encourage that. I think they want people bogged down in partisan fighting. They want us at each other's throats. They don't want us realizing, oh, Comcast bought a state law that prevents me from having quality service. They don't want people thinking about that, so they get people mired down in these fights over partisan fisticuffs. And I really expected people to have learned a little bit from that, but I'm seeing it actually kind of get worse in this era, which is very disheartening. You know, I mean, on the flip side, there's a lot of positive going on, like as you know, the community broadband stuff is flourishing. A lot of places are just tired. They're fighting back. You're seeing a lot of interesting local activist stuff going on a local level, and I'm watching states come in with the FCC kind of giving up it's decision to protect consumers. The states have started to flood in and start protecting a little more. It's very interesting. There is positivity happening. You just have to spend a little time looking for it.

Christopher Mitchell: One thing that I expected ⁠— I'm curious to get your reaction on this. You know, if I look back 10 years, I would have thought that given the lack of progress, the fact that most people are still very unhappy, these companies are very unpopular, that we would see more of a discussion on cable television news about broadband issues. I mean, like you said, the net neutrality stuff that we'll talk about in a second is unprecedented. I mean, probably it's possible that more people legitimately commented on that then have commented in the aggregate of number of previous comments before of all open issues and yet, you know, the cable companies that control a lot of those channels don't seem to have any interest in actually, you know, having those fights on television it seems like.

Karl Bode: Yeah, no, Comcast - NBC Universal isn't going to have a half hour segment on how spotty their coverage is across the country or how the erosion of local media is kind of causing, you know, increased division in the country. They don't want to talk about any of that stuff. I mean, it's very obvious that none of those channels want to touch this with a 10 foot pole because it's a losing proposition. When you get into Comcast buying state laws, literally buying and writing their own state laws that prohibit competitive alternatives, you know, there's no defending that kind of stuff. And so the more you cover it, the more pissed people get, and then you know, god forbid somebody tries to do something about it. So of course they're not going to spend too much time talking about it. I mean, in the major papers, honestly, you know, a lot of the coverage is highly superficial in that regard as well.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, no, and that's actually where I feel like, again, I'm somewhat surprised at the lack of seriousness. And I really wonder ⁠— and I haven't gone back to look that deeply, but I assume electrification was covered more professionally back then. New technology is always something that's just hard for, I think, incumbents to figure out, whether you're in the newspaper business or whatever. But it just seems like everyone agrees that this is the future of everything, and yet no one seems interested in the details around it.

Karl Bode: I think a lot of reporters look at it from a superficial level as if we're discussing sewer line. You know, what kind of sewer line is that? You know, they're not that interested in that. They don't understand the broader impact of what happens when you let a company like AT&T not only dominate the broadband conduit to your home, but all the content flowing into your home, all the advertisements you're seeing, what content gets delivered at what speed, you know, that kind of stuff. That's a big deal. People don't understand what we're building here when you let a company like Comcast, NBC, universal control, the conduit and the content. You're going to have problems unless you have ⁠— there's no competition to keep them honest. And we've decided the answer to that on government is even less regulation and less oversight than ever, and I don't know what people expect from that outcome. It's not going to end well for consumers or smaller competitors. I don't know. I mean, this is ⁠— I've made the same point for 15 years and still people tend to debate it. I don't think it's debatable. The end outcome of this is not good unless you have some real competition, and like I said, I'm really very impressed with all this stuff people locally are doing. The local activists and local broadband community, municipal people, they are the people that should get all the attention and all the coverage because really it's very impressive what's going on around this country.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes, and that's why we're trying to cover it. I mean 10 years ago, as I'm sure you knew, like we could cover everything that was happening, and now it's not even possible. If we doubled the size of our team, we'd still be missing stories because of all the local activity.

Karl Bode: Yeah. You know, Chattanooga really, I think, ignited some interest once Consumer Reports ranked them the top ranked ISP in America last year.

Christopher Mitchell: Uh huh.

Karl Bode: That really ⁠— people are like, "Oh, there's alternatives to this. I don't have to pay Comcast $170 for 400 channels I don't watch and a cable broadband line that cuts out every three minutes."

Christopher Mitchell: Let's turn to the FCC commenting system, and I think that it's most obvious with net neutrality, where there was more attention and apparently higher stakes for a lot of folks, because you were one of the first people to be surprised that Karl Bode opposed net neutrality. You found your own name in the comment system taking a position diametrically opposed to what you believe. So for people who aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, what happened there?

Karl Bode: When the FCC website was opened up for public comment, it became very quickly apparent that something was very wrong. You had senators whose names were being hijacked. You had people who are dead breathlessly supporting killing net neutrality. You had people who'd never heard what net neutrality was about. Somebody took the time to painstakingly post two comments to the FCC website in my name saying that I was very excited about the government demolishing consumer protection and that I ran an unregistered political PAC of some kind. Yeah, somebody took my identity and used it to make fraudulent comments, and when I contacted the FCC, I was told there was absolutely nothing they could do about it. And most everybody else who had their name hijacked in that fashion also experienced the same thing. The FCC has been completely resistant to investigating, to being transparent about what happened, and I think for obvious reasons. But yeah, it's a mess. And I think the AG, New York attorney general, had been investigating, and there was at one point a Department of Justice investigation. But in this current climate, who knows what happened to those. You know, there's, there's obviously other more pressing situations going on, I understand, but also who knows if they'd just close those cases. I have no idea at this point.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, and this actually gets to again what we were talking about earlier regarding the byline and access journalism. It was Buzzfeed that just recently sort of uncovered some of what happened with really remarkable reporting.

Karl Bode: Yeah, there's been a lot of good reporters that have just slowly, painstakingly done Freedom of Information Act requests to see who was submitting this, how they did it. And it's slowly coming together that, yeah, it was ⁠— surprise ⁠— the broadband industry incumbents funding some pretty shady middlemen shops to then fill the FCC website with fake support for their bad policy. It's not just an FCC thing. That's happening at most regulators right now. It's kind of lobbyist shops that will do that as kind of a value added service ⁠— pretend to be Americans for you and fill websites with false support for your bad policy. It's kind of a thing now.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, Phil Dampier tracked that down in New Jersey six or seven years ago, and I just assumed then that it was kind of anomalous, that it was not standard practice because it seems like it should be a significant crime to me.

Karl Bode: Yeah, you would think, right? You would think that it would get a little more attention, the fact that the companies are paying firms to pretend to be Americans and pollute . . . It's polluting our discourse. I mean, it was the one chance that Americans had to make it known what they thought about the FCC policy proceeding, and it was completely hijacked. And you know, the fact that more people weren't bothered by that is fairly telling.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you think there is any chance ⁠— and try not to laugh too hard directly into the microphone. Do you think there is any chance that this was just a situation in which the those companies were thinking, "Well, there's a lot of people on our side. We're just going to hire these firms to find them," because they can't conceive that they are really are opposed by 80 - 90 percent of the American public?

Karl Bode: I'm fairly certain they knew what they were doing. You know, a lot of these shops that Buzzfeed exposed are our traditional operatives that have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time, so I'm sure the broadband industry would throw up their hands and say, "We didn't know what we were getting into," assuming they're ever held accountable, which I doubt that'll happen. I think they knew. I'm almost positive they knew. This is something that's gone on for awhile. I mean it's less now, but about 10 - 15 years ago I used to write about how AT&T and Verizon would actually create fake consumer groups. Like, they would call it "Consumers for American Choice," you know, and have a big website talking about this and that, but its entire purpose was to undermine consumer advocacy and push policies that were in direct contradiction to what consumers are interested in. There's been a little bit less of that over the years, but this stuff has kind of risen up in its place. This kind of little bit more sneaky shady behavior has become the norm. And if you notice, broadband providers never want to talk about this issue. It's hard to get them to talk about what happened here because they like to distance themselves via proxies from the things they did.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, and I think the proxies is interesting because like you said, I think there are fewer of those astroturf groups popping up. It does seem like they are relying more on academics who are in many cases clueless. And I'm not the first person to say that there's a fair number of academics who don't really have a sense of how anything really operates in the real world, but it does seem like there's more academic centers, whether ⁠— you know, Chris Yoo has certainly been doing this for a long time out of the University of Pennsylvania. We see several colleges and universities though that operate as fronts, and it looks like legitimate research that gets released then.

Karl Bode: Yeah, yeah. It's a universe of that. I've watched that for 20 years. You know, a lot of quid pro quo, very cozy relationships between a company and a college who that a professor will oddly support killing all consumer protections and support even the worst merger possible, and then they'll massage data and twist and contort data until it supports what they claim. And that's been a cottage industry for a long time now. And then that's another thing you think there'd be some rules on because I see a lot of these same folks write editorials in major papers and at no point is it disclosed they often have a financial relationship. They do go to great lengths to kind of obscure those financial relationships most of the time, but if you dig deeply enough into a lot of these folks, you can usually find some kind of tether to the corporate cash or AT&T. AT&T, that's one of the ⁠— AT&T loves to do this kind of stuff. They're a very, very sophisticated policy and lobbying apparatus as I'm sure you know, but yeah, they've been doing this for a long time. It's wonky enough that it doesn't galvanize the public opposition because it's confusing, so I think they can get away with it under the den of confusion.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that seems to be promising is that we see Senator Blackburn coming out now very concerned about privacy issues for Facebook, and as we've been commenting on Twitter, you know, I can only assume that AT&T's privacy practices are next.

Karl Bode: Yeah, no doubt. I'm sure she's going to jump right on that. Tthe whole Facebook thing is fascinating to me because you've got a lot of politicians who've literally let these incumbent monopoly broadband providers buy state laws resulting in poor service, high prices, and these same senators are suddenly ⁠— I mean, to be clear, Facebook has a lot of problems. Google, Silicon Valley, their business models, I mean, I think we all understand that they amplify disinformation, and their prioritization of engagement above all else has caused a lot of problems. I don't dispute that, but I also think lot of the stuff coming out of D.C. right now ⁠— Blackburn specifically, folks like Blackburn ⁠— is kind of disingenuous. I don't think they're actually interested in corporate power. I think they're using this as both a way to help the telecom sector and a way to be divisive politically because like I said on Twitter the other day, I've never seen Blackburn oppose AT&T on anything.

Christopher Mitchell: Honestly. For me, the thing that was fascinating. I mean, so I disagree with Marsha Blackburn on a variety of issues. I've never thought she was a particularly hard worker on the issues that she does care about. And yet, when it was . . . I think it was six months ago when she got a lot of attention for asking very hard questions of Mark Zuckerberg,, being very prepared and people were just like, "Wow, Marsha Blackburn is like so concerned about Facebook." And I was just like, I could just see the lobbyists team from AT&T patting themselves on the back in the background for so preparing her.

Karl Bode: Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's a lot of legitimate opposition to Facebook, of course, but there's also a lot of it farmed by the telecom industry. They're very interested ⁠— they're expanding into media and online video, and they'd like nothing more than to see Silicon Valley giants hamstrung by all kinds of new regulations that are very specifically tailored to screw Silicon Valley but leave telecom open to doing whatever it wants. And I mean, you can see that's a total asymmetry right now. You've got the entirety of D.C. focused on Silicon Valley, you know, and at the same time the broadband industry just convinced one of the biggest regulators in the country to effectively just obliterate its authority over broadband providers. Those things are going on at the same time, and very few people are looking at them both and wondering if they're connected, and they are very much so connected.

Christopher Mitchell: I mean, we talk about privacy issues, and I think one of the things that that does drive me nuts, for people who don't understand the threat of Facebook, is that you have no choice. If you're on the internet, Facebook is trying to track you. You have to be pretty sophisticated to avoid it. At the same time, if you are using AT&T as your provider, they are tracking you in many of the same ways, and they are just as unregulated it feels like. I mean, I don't know exactly how. I don't spend all of my time working on that.

Karl Bode: Yeah. AT&T has been doing this stuff for decades. I mean, you look at the location data scandals that have been going on with AT&T and those companies hoovering up, you know, your daily traveling habits down to the second and selling it to just a long list, like hundreds of companies, with very little oversight. Nobody seemed to care about that until the scandal came up. AT&T used to modify packets to track people around the Internet. The company tried for awhile ⁠— until they wanted to get merger approval and they backed up. But for a while they were charging their broadband users like $500 more a year just to opt out of their snooping advertisements, you know, and that money wouldn't even stop them tracking you. They'd still collect data on you. They just wouldn't send you behavioral ads as if that's any kind of reasonable tradeoff, you know. And this stuff has been going on for so long, and nobody really cares about telecom and then here ⁠— so it's frustrating to me. I understand all the problems with Facebook and the privacy issues with Facebook. It's monumental. They have a massive platform, and it's hugely powerful around the world. But at the same time, telecom's no angel. You've got these massive media empires that dominate local broadband access. They're now dominating media. They just convinced the government to strip most of the oversight of them. I mean, again, it's one of these situations. Where do you think this path leads to where you create the situation where telecom can do whatever they want, but you know, we highly regulate Facebook? And you know, a lot of the people like Blackburn, when push comes to shove, aren't actually going to regulate Facebook. They're using it as political grandstanding right now, but when it actually comes time to do anything about Facebook, they'll suddenly all disappear, and they'll have reasons why you can't, you know, constrain Zuckerberg's ability to make billions and billions of dollars off of snooping data. So yeah, I'm not impressed with the current paradigm, and there's a lot of smart people out there who should know better, who also aren't understanding that this is all one problem. Telecom, Silicon Valley ⁠— these are all the same problem. Corporate influence in our government, letting them literally write policy, corruption of the public comment process ⁠— you know, it's all one problem. No privacy rules. I mean, I can't believe it's 2019 and we're still "should we maybe have a privacy law?" You know, still. There's one privacy law for kids, and it's terribly written. It doesn't work half the time. And like people are still, you know ⁠— after everything that's happened, there's still this debate other whether we should have, like, a fundamental privacy law that just says let the consumer opt out, fundamental things, you know. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you have a sense of ⁠— you know, I feel like you, like me, I think don't really have a home politically. In fact, I think this is true of many of us who are like very technical. And I feel like when I look at what happens when Republicans are elected, they act like there's no problem, and when Democrats are elected, it seems like they're motivated to do something on it. But, it doesn't seem like things get done, and they blame that often on Republicans although it does seem like a lot of the cable guys have a lot of relationships with a lot of the Democrats. And so, you know, I mean, one of the issues that I look at a lot is rural broadband, right? I think people in rural areas are often going to vote on issues that are not related to broadband, often a cultural issue if for no other reason than liberal tears today it seems like. And so, I'm at a bit of a loss in terms of, like, what does a person do, like regarding the political process? It seems totally failed to deal with these issues.

Karl Bode: Yeah. Yeah, it has. It's broken. I mean, I think it's obvious that the Democrats are a little bit better on some of these issues, but yeah, you're right. Obama's first FCC boss, Genachowski, was kind of, you know ⁠— he would just try and get along with everybody. He would try painfully to not ruffle any feathers. So all of his policies would be these kind of nebulous, "Yes, we're going to solve the digital divide," but then when push comes to shove, they wouldn't actually do anything about it. I do think Wheeler was better, you know. I think he was actually capable of like hearing data and changing his mind based on what the data says, which is, you know, a rare trait in D.C.these days. But like you, I don't tie my ego up to any brand or politician or a party. I just find that kind of silly, you know, wearing our color coded jumpsuits and fighting everything. I don't go for that. You know, I like to weigh each regulation on its merits, each politician on their merits, and there's a lot of bad politicians. And these companies have corrupted the entire democratic process, and I think the only alternative is to just vote out people who have repeatedly over a period of 20 years shown that they have zero interest in consumer or real market welfare. I mean, starting locally, fighting locally, that's where people win. That's where the process hasn't been quite so corrupted over a period of 50 years, you know, so the local fights are super important. Yeah, net neutrality was a perfect example. I think the states will come in and pass some laws that the federal government was too afraid to, and that's going to be really interesting to watch.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. Well, the issue will be fought in front of courts and whatnot. I mean, in some ways, I'm hopeful first of all that again provides enough restraint that we don't see the nastiness that you and I both know could be happening as soon as these companies feel like their feet are not in the fire. Ajit Pai took their feet mostly out of the fire, but they know the fire is still there and that seems to be restraining them.

Karl Bode: They were ⁠— yeah. Everyone says, "Oh, the internet didn't immediately implode, therefore killing net neutrality must not have been a big thing." But you know, that's an oversimplification of the problem. The broadband providers were trying to behave largely because they were worried about that law federal lawsuit coming down, and they were also worried about state laws. You know, they don't want to go change their business models wholesale across the country and start nickel and diming people all over the place only to suddenly run afoul of California's new net neutrality law in which they owe billions of dollars for this or that. So, yeah, I mean, I think if we keep pushing in this direction, you're eventually gonna start seeing some major privacy and net neutrality and competitive scandals that will finally blow the lid off of some of this stuff and kind of motivate people towards both a net neutrality and privacy laws. They're very similar policy-wise right now in the federal government. You know, both are big issues, both are things we need to tackle, both are entering as a domain where the states are taking the lead because the federal government is too corrupted to do much about it. So, yeah, both have been interesting to watch.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me just wrap up by saying for people who aren't following you already: @KarlBode, B-O-D,-E, Karl with a K, a wonderful follow. And also mostly writing on Motherboard. Is there any other place that people would see regularly popping up? Oh yeah, Techdirt.

Karl Bode: Techdirt. Vice's Motherboard. You'll see me on Mediums one zero publication occasionally, but yeah, also check me out on Twitter.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. Well, thank you so much for coming on. It's been a fun discussion.

Karl Bode: Yeah. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Karl Bode, longtime analyst and freelance writer. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.org/broadbandbits. Email us at podcast@muninetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. We encourage you to follow Karl too. His handle is @KarlBode. That's K-A-R-L-B-O-D-E. Follow muninetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other podcasts from ILSR, Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org. While you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount helps keep us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and thank you for listening to episode 379 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.