Flimsy Last Ditch Effort To Derail Real Net Neutrality Protections Launches In Congress

from the let's-play-make-believe dept

With Title II based net neutrality rules pretty much a sure thing, the mega-ISPs have been engaged in a last-ditch attempt to derail the FCC ahead of an expected February 26 announcement and vote. This has included significant pressure on lawmakers to rewrite the Communications Act with a core focus on hamstringing the FCC by eroding both their authority — and their budget. ISPs are also pushing well compensated Congressfolk to pass new, weaker neutrality rules in an effort to preempt tougher Title II provisions.

At the vanguard of this latter effort sit Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton. The two have been busily firing up an utterly adorable stage play the last week in which they profess to love net neutrality so much, they’re starting a “public conversation” about new, bi-partisan neutrality rules they hope to pass. As part of this campaign, the two took to the Reuters op/ed page last week to convince the public that while they once saw neutrality rules as a “solution in search of a problem,” they now think we need tough, comprehensive, bipartisan rules crafted after a painstaking public conversation:

“In the coming days, we plan to pursue a public process to draft and enact bipartisan legislation that would protect the open Internet. We hope FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the public will join Congress in working to build and enact a shared set of principles that will protect Internet users, promote innovation, encourage investment ? and withstand legal challenge.

We have made this an early priority of this Congress, demonstrating we can come together on a bipartisan basis to protect the vitality of the Internet ? now so indispensable to our economy and way of life. Enduring, long-term protections for our digital freedoms are something we should all support.”

Clearly this is an amazing, unprecedented example of Congress working through its traditional partisan dysfunction and coming together to ensure the Internet is protected from the lack of last mile competition, nurturing a more robust Internet economy for generations to come. Just kidding. It’s all bullshit.

What’s actually happening here is Thune and Upton are trying to force through a law written by ISP lawyers that is actually weaker than the original FCC rules AT&T and Comcast supported (but Verizon sued to overturn). By “public conversation,” they mean a series of public hearings in which the usual assortment of think tankers, fauxcademics, sock puppets and other ISP-payrolled policy folk gush over the proposal as a more “sensible” solution than Title II. Except when you actually bother to read their proposal (pdf), you’ll note that the rules are so stuffed with loopholes, they fail to protect net neutrality whatsoever.

The bill’s language leaves the FCC with less flexibility and authority to enforce net neutrality than ever before. It exempts anything having to do with copyright infringement, allows prioritization of a company’s own content (provided payments aren’t made), doesn’t address discrimination via access charges, and has a painfully ambiguous definition of “reasonable network management.” It also fails to cover the areas where the most important anti-competitive gatekeeper shenanigans are occurring right now: usage caps, payment schemes to bypass those caps (like AT&T’s Sponsored Data), and interconnection.

Consumer groups like Public Knowledge note the proposal only prohibits the kind of ham-fisted offenses ISPs were never even considering (blocking websites or services outright). Otherwise it’s a giant wishlist for all of the “creative” gatekeeper pricing efforts carriers have been cooking up for several years, while leaving the FCC largely powerless to protect consumers from them:

“For example, these principles would not have prevented AT&T from limiting FaceTime to particular tiers of service ? as it tried to do in 2012. It would not address discriminatory use of data caps, such as Comcast has used to favor its own streaming content over that of rivals. It would not address potential issues arising at Internet interconnection, the gateway to the last mile. Even worse, by eliminating any flexibility on rulemaking or enforcement, the bill would prevent the FCC from addressing any new forms of discrimination and threats to openness that arise.”

Still, some folks in the press were impressed that neutrality opponents were striking a “conciliatory note,” seemingly portraying Thune and Upton as courageous for reaching across the aisle. That’s giving this effort way too much credit, as they’re just pantomiming according to a provided script. Worse, the two discard the last four years of progress in net neutrality discussions by actually making their proposal weaker than the rules crafted with Google, Verizon and AT&T’s heavy participation in 2010. Thune and Upton’s efforts are little more than a mule in a dress trying to do a Marilyn Monroe impression, and it’s huge step backward for those interested in meaningful neutrality protections.

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Comments on “Flimsy Last Ditch Effort To Derail Real Net Neutrality Protections Launches In Congress”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would love to believe that real change is coming. I think the only reason they are fighting this so hard is they will have to work harder to screw us. Some changes will happen but not enough to force real competition and real changes. It is a start but still a lot of work needs to be done.

I truly hope that I am wrong, and that real change will happen, but just trying to be realistic

Anonymous Coward says:

what is needed more than anything else is complete reformation of Congress and what they are supposed to be doing as opposed to what they are actually doing. there should be no contributions allowed unless the amounts are disclosed and no way should there be any other payments made to government representatives, apart from their salary. anyone found to be receiving ANY sort of payment, whether in cash, goods or in kind, will be punishable by imprisonment and for ever excluded from politics or from being a representative or adviser for any political party, government, company, industry or anything else for ever! my wishful thinking, i know, but think of the change something like this would bring, rather than the pathetic ones at the moment, just because money has changed hands!

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have a simpler idea: congressional term limits. Three terms, lifetime total, per person. That is, John Doe can only ever have up to three combined (not necessarily back to back) terms in the Senate and House of Representatives. This one simple change would eliminate vast swaths of corruption and hypocrisy. And please, no one spout that crap about not having enough time to “learn the job”, you see what happens when they have enough time to learn the job… they never leave! This is not what our founding fathers intended. In fact, serving in Congress was supposed to be an obligation similar to jury duty, not seen as a benefit or plus in any way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What would happen in the case of term limits as you propose is that congress critters would simply be that much more motivated to smash and grab everything in sight. It certainly wouldn’t fix anything, and would probably make things much worse.

Pressure flows where there’s least resistance.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I have to disagree: first, there wouldn’t be any more congress critters, the way you and I mean it. No more professional politicians. Just people that come in, do a job for a short while, and then go back to their own job. I also think it would reduce the effect of lobbying, in that the good ol’ boys network would not have enough time to grow strong.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I have a simpler idea: congressional term limits. Three terms, lifetime total, per person.”

That would actually make the problem worse, not better. It would increase the amount of power in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that don’t have terms at all. Then the corruption would be even more difficult to reign in.

I fundamentally agree with where the AC is coming from, but my take on it is from the other end: the reason that congresspeople are in such desperate need for so much money is because they need to buy airtime during their campaigns. So, the easiest solution would be to restrict the purchasing of airtime.

Very nearly every politician in government would love to have the need for fundraising be reduced. As it is right now, they universally complain about the fact that they must spend most of their time during their terms engaging in fundraising.

Zonker says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Because that might level the playing field. As much as they may hate fundraising, they would never give up a potential advantage against their rivals to stay in office.

The promise of a lucrative executive job with your biggest lobbyist where you’re paid good money to influence other politicians after you finally get removed from office is another perk that is just too good to give up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Campaign finance [was ]

So, the easiest solution would be to restrict the purchasing of airtime.

Restricting candidate airtime purchases would result in an increase in less-traceable third-party political advertising.

Rather than attempting to restrict the amount of political speech in the public arena, it’s probably better to publicly subsidize candidates’ airtime.

The broadcasters’ licenses do not give them ownership of the public airwaves. The broadcasters have a duty to the public.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It would increase the amount of power in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that don’t have terms at all.”

I don’t see how that follows. There would be no overall reduction in the amount of power that Congress wields, just a shorter duration for any particular person to wield it. Less time worrying about re-election campaigns. Less time redrawing district maps. In general, less time to get up to the shenanigans that has essentially broken our method of government.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If politicians have a fixed exit date, that means that the real, continuous governing is actually done by the functionaries rather than the elected. We see this right now in several places in the US, even: the NSA, etc., deliberately cut the elected government out of things because the politicians aren’t around long enough to provide sufficient continuity (in their opinion).

This is actually an incredibly well-known phenomenon that history provides endless examples of. The most famous, perhaps, being China. China has been considered unconquerable for thousands of years — not because they can’t be militarily conquered, but because the only people who could get things done there are the functionaries that have been around forever. When they’d get militarily conquered, the conquerors would have to rely on the existing functionaries in order to keep the nation running. In the end, nothing would really change much and the people actually ruling were the same ones that had ruled pre-invasion: the functionaries.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

  1. i got a ‘better’ (ie will-not-happen-in-a-million-years) idea: FORGET about the bullshit ‘principle’ (ie the-opposite-of-principle) that money=speech, THAT RIGHT THERE is where we have gone off the rails…
    IF you agree with that ‘principle’ (ie immorality), you have simply made the death of small-dee democracy INEVITABLE…
    so FORGET THAT SHIT, that ‘principle’ which is not a principle, is simply ENFORCED upon us by rich people and their eee-vil minions of doom; it is no sort of moral ‘principle’ i have been raised to recognize…

    2. now, PUBLIC campaign financing is the next step, WITH useless gatekeeper media greedhogs supplying FREE AIR TIME for campaign ads…
    (FUCKERS, we don’t get SHIT back for GIVING OUR airwaves to those greedhogs, AT THE VERY LEAST, they can provide free air time during campaign periods every couple years…)

    make that minimum of free media be sufficient, then the candidates for the greedhogs spending above that will have little advantage EVEN IF they outspend 100:1…
    (not perfect, but a start)

    3. shorten the campaigning seasons (not sure exactly what mechanism, etc, but other countries seem to manage it okay), so it is NOT an interminable multi-year snorefest that turns EVERYONE off…

    4. DUMP the Korporate Money Party duopoly of dem’rats/rethugs controlling nearly any and all aspects of our campaign laws, financing, and ‘qualifying’ candidates, etc… LEVEL the playing field so third/fourth/etc parties can get traction, NOT be relegated to essentially NO STATUS in the races…
    gee, aren’t these fucktards endlessly extolling the magical benefits of ‘competition’ ? ? ? (except for THEM, of course)

    okay, that would be a good start; BUT it will NOT happen, because the corrupted, amoral pigs who run/control The System ™ will NOT allow said system to be modified beyond their control… AGAIN, The System ™ is NOT ‘broken’ as far as THEY are concerned; it is working PERFECTLY WELL for their greedy ends… why change a good thing for themselves ?
    they will not…

    in short, i have little/no hope that a broken, corrupted system (for us 99%) will be forced to change by using a broken, corrupt system controlled by the 1%…

justme says:

Campaign Finance Reform. . .

Campaign Finance Reform is badly needed!

If our elected representatives are to represent the interest’s of the citizen’s of their state, then any contributions should come exclusively from the citizens of that state.

Our current system is like someone working for company A, but receiving the majority of there income for there competitor, company B. Without that changing, congress will keep grabbing there ankles for money, and we will continue to be the one’s walking funny the next day!

Anonymous Coward says:

“We have made this an early priority of this Congress, demonstrating we can come together on a bipartisan basis to protect the vitality of the Internet…”

Translation: OMG! OMG! The FCC is about to vote on Title II in February! OMG! We have to ram something through Congress quick! Our telcom lobbying investors demand it! OMG!

Jeff Dunham says:

A Truly Free Internet

I think that to the winner go the spoils. I think that the strongest should be emperor of the Internet. If a company built the backbone, they deserve the share of what they built, and if they have to negotiate with another backbone, so be it. There should be no socialization of control. I also believe that if there is one area in society that power needs to be reduced it is the executive branch of government. Let the Republic be run as one, and give the executive only control over limited things, like overseeing a war or ensuring sovereignty.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Corporate owned is anything but 'free'

Sounds good, so then, when will those who ‘built the backbone’ be reimbursing the billions they got from the government/taxpayers in grants and tax breaks then?

Get public money, build on public land, use public spectrum, and they get to deal with public ‘interference’. They want total control, then they get nothing from the public or government, and have to do everything on their own, with absolutely no help from anyone else.

cubicleslave (profile) says:

Bring back the OTA! (Office of Technology Assessment)
It is ridiculous to expect congressmen to have a basic understanding of how the internet works or the ramifications/fallout from uninformed policy decisions.

Perhaps a qualified panel of technology experts be created to advise our elected talking heads, before they go off and do more damage than good.

Senator Upton is probably accepting more than campaign contributions from Comcast, he is probably getting technology advice as well. Great, just what we don’t need.

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