If you've followed the whole net neutrality debate for a while, you may remember one of the more ridiculous talking points when the 2015 rules were put in place: it was the line that the rules were "400 pages of regulation on the internet." People kept listing out the page numbers to suggest how crazy it was, and just how much bad stuff the FCC must be doing in "regulating the internet." Ajit Pai kicked it all off with his tweet with a picture of himself holding the initial version of the rules, complaining that it was "Obama's 332-page plan to regulate the internet."
Here is President Obama's 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what's inside. pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 6, 2015
Others picked up on this theme. The eventually released rules were 400 pages exactly, leading to lots of hand-wringing and whining from the usual suspects about how this was some sort of massive takeover of the internet, hidden in so many pages. Of course, that ignored that the actual "rules" take up just a few pages in the order. It's actually eight pages. You can see them on pages 283 through 290 of the 400 page document. All the rest of it just explains the rules -- as is required by law -- responding to comments that had been raised during the open comment period. And, even more pages are devoted to explaining what the rules do not allow the FCC to do. Also, part of the 400 pages included Ajit Pai's own 64 pages of "dissent." It's hard to see how that should be counted as part of the "regulation."
And yet that didn't stop the likes of Ajit Pai from insisting that there were 332 pages of regulations in there. And for others to pick up on similar numbers or the full 400 page number. A group called "American Action Forum" called it a "400 page monstrosity." During her campaign for President, Carly Fiorina said the first thing she would do as President is "roll back the 400 pages of regulations the FCC just rolled out over the internet." Leaving aside that the President can't overrule the FCC like that, she's also relying on that misleading 400 page number. Infowars got in on the action also, saying that the hidden within the 400 page rules were a plan "to seize the entire internet." And, oh boy, were there lots of tweets attacking the whole 400 pages thing. For example, here's Mike Wendy, a consistent gadfly in policy discussions, always always always supporting the telco's position, insisting that the new rules are 400 pages (even though he, of all people, knows better):
But, I'm curious where are all these people now, in commenting on the size of Ajit Pai's order? In its current form, it weighs in at a hefty 210 pages (and that's before additional things like Commissioner statements/dissents will get added). It's true that these "rules" are "shorter" than Wheeler's. The actual rules this time are 2 pages, rather than 8. But, I'm curious why Carly Fiorina isn't complaining about 200+ pages of "new" rules for the internet. Indeed, I can't find any comment from her anywhere. American Action Forum doesn't have a story up complaining about 200 pages of new internet regulations. Infowars seems positively giddy that Ajit Pai has released 200+ pages of new rules, apparently freeing us from some sort of George Soros conspiracy or something. Meanwhile, I've gone through Mike Wendy's tweets, and despite him tweeting many, many, many times about the "400 pages" in Wheeler's rules, somehow he doesn't ever seem to mention the over 200 pages in Pai's rules. He doesn't mention why it takes "over 200 pages to explain" why Pai is rolling back the last order. I wonder why. Instead, he's declaring these new 200+ pages of rules a "win for consumers, society, innovation and free speech." Hmmmmmm. It's almost as if it's not the page count that matters at all...
Incredibly, many of the people now cheering on the new rules are still attacking the original order as being "400 pages" without acknowledging that the new "rules" are over 200 pages.
Obviously no one is complaining about 200+ pages of new regulations because these aren't 200+ pages of new regulations. But neither was the FCC's 2015 order 400 pages of new regulations. There are lots of things to be concerned about with what Ajit Pai is doing here, but it does seem important not to forget the absolute bullshit that some people spewed in response to the 2015 rules, complaining over and over again about how they were so many pages long (even though they really weren't) -- when literally none of those people are commenting on the length of the new order.