Regulatory Capture

Beyond Revolving Doors and Against Regulatory Nihilism.

Cory Doctorow
16 min readJun 5, 2022


A Soviet editorial cartoon featuring an ogrish capitalist in top hat and tails yanking a dollar-sign-shaped lever that ejects a tiny bureaucrat from a seat; ranks of bureaucrats behind him wait their turns, grinning idiot grins.

The Murder of Net Neutrality Was Wild

Here’s a story about “regulatory capture”: Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, to run the Federal Communications Commission, which is in charge of regulating companies like Verizon. Verizon — and the other big telcos and cable operators — wanted to kill Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the idea that your ISP should send you the bits you request as quickly and reliably as it can. That means when you click a link, your ISP does its level best to get that link for you.

Net Neutrality’s opposite is net discrimination. That’s when your ISP is allowed to slow down or otherwise degrade your connection. Why would ISPs do this? Because it represents a new revenue source: ISPs get to charge you for your internet connection, and then charge the companies that run the services you value for “priority” access to you. If they don’t pay, your ISP can slow down their services so they’re less useful to you, prompting you to switch to a rival who did pay for priority carriage.

Internet users really don’t like network discrimination. How do we know that? Well, the FCC had to ask them (all US federal administrative agencies have to accept public comments before changing policy).

John Oliver made one of his trademark scorching videos explaining the Net Neutrality issue, urging his viewers to go to the FCC’s website and tell Ajit Pai that they didn’t want network discrimination.

It was a resounding success. Oliver’s video went viral. The FCC received so many pro-Net Neutrality comments that its website crashed (this is the same thing that happened in the previous administration, when Obama’s FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler — a former cable lobbyist —created the Net Neutrality rules that Pai wanted to kill).

The Dead Hate Net Neutrality



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: