House Rushes To Gut FCC Authority To Prevent Inquiry Into Comcast Broadband Caps

from the protect-the-status-quo dept

Historically, the FCC has steered well clear of regulating broadband prices. Hell, for most of the last fifteen years the FCC hasn’t even admitted that high prices due to limited competition are a problem, instead focusing on the politically sexier idea of ensuring uniform availability. The FCC certainly collects pricing data from broadband ISPs, but, at the industry’s behest, never shares that data with the public. As a result, we get things like our $300 million national broadband map, which will happily show you (largely hallucinated) speed and competitive options in your neighborhood, but won’t tell you how much they cost.

And while the FCC did move last year to expand its authority over broadband providers by reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has stated time and time again that the agency has no intention of regulating broadband rates, either in regards to last mile prices or peering and interconnection. But that doesn’t mean the threat of broadband price regulations still can’t be a useful bogeyman for opponents of net neutrality.

Still fuming from FCC “power grabs” like raising the broadband definition to 25 Mbps and passing relatively basic and loophole-filled net neutrality rules, the GOP is pushing yet another parade of legislation aimed at curtailing the FCC’s authority over broadband providers. And while the legislation is being framed by House members (and ex-FCC members now lobbying for broadband providers) as a way to protect small ISPs from a power mad government intent on dictating sector prices, consumer advocate groups note that as worded, the proposals are largely about ensuring the FCC won’t actually be able to do its job:

“The two broadband bills use incredibly broad language that endangers the ability of the FCC to protect consumers from fraudulent charges, threatens the ongoing effort to reform the Universal Service Fund to subsidize rural broadband, and potentially deprives millions of consumers of the right to know how their broadband providers make critical decisions about their broadband subscriptions,” said Feld.

If you’d fallen asleep during the admittedly monotonous net neutrality debates after the rules were passed, all you really need to know is that net neutrality opponents in Congress have been trying desperately to punish the FCC for daring to stand up to industry incumbents like AT&T and Comcast. This has included an embarrassing parade of so-called fact finding hearings in which FCC boss Tom Wheeler was scolded repeatedly for challenging the broadband status quo. Burying neutrality and FCC authority killing measures in budget riders has also become a popular pastime.

It should be noted that the House’s proposals are largely uncooked. Indeed the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act” (tabled by Representative Adam Kinzinger) only states this:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service.”

Why this sudden focus on the menace that is “broadband rate regulation?” Because companies like Comcast continue to not only impose utterly unnecessary broadband caps and overage fees, but Comcast is now trying to run rough shod over net neutrality by exempting its own services from the usage caps. As the pressure mounts on the FCC to wake up and actually enforce the net neutrality rules the public forced it to adopt, loyal allies in Congress are doing their very best to pull the rug out from underneath the FCC.

The irony of course is that the FCC, regardless of what party is in control, has shown time, and time, and time again that it doesn’t give two shits about the high cost of broadband. It by and large has also indicated that it thinks usage caps and zero rating proposals are innovative and nifty. The idea that the FCC is going to aggressively start engaging in broadband rate regulations (when it can’t even admit high-pricing is a problem) is another straw man put forth by a Congress whose full-time job is to protect the broadband industry duopoly from the remotest possibility of public accountability.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “House Rushes To Gut FCC Authority To Prevent Inquiry Into Comcast Broadband Caps”

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Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

Sorry about that, quite honestly thought I’d plugged in a link. Added. It’s the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act tabled by Representative Adam Kinzinger:

The assault on net neutrality is however largely a GOP baby, though yes I’ve noted time and time again the fact this is even a partisan debate is idiotic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R] Representative from Illinois’s 16th District

Cosponsors: Barton, Joe [R-TX6]

Bilirakis, Gus [R-FL12]

Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN7]

Collins, Chris [R-NY27]

Cramer, Kevin [R-ND0]

Ellmers, Renee [R-NC2]

Guthrie, Brett [R-KY2]

Johnson, Bill [R-OH6]

Lance, Leonard [R-NJ7]

Latta, Robert [R-OH5]

Long, Billy [R-MO7]

Olson, Pete [R-TX22]

Pompeo, Mike [R-KS4]

Scalise, Steve [R-LA1]

Shimkus, John [R-IL15]

Upton, Fred [R-MI6]

Walden, Greg [R-OR2]

Whatever (profile) says:

Karl, how much does John Eggerton pay you for the links? Seriously, broadcastingcable is a horrible site with popup ads on every page and the story has no real information that wouldn’t be gained from linking to the original story, rather than a story about a story.

Seems like you are good friends working to push an agenda with friendly links. Are you paid to help this guy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Have you looked at the recent indications of who is ahead in the political horserace and who is gaining or loosing ground?

It is bills like this, actions like this clearly against the public, that are driving discontent at gridlock and such low ratings for congress.

The rich are moaning and groaning over the money spent isn’t buying the influence they thought it would as in past horseraces.

Face it, the voters are tired of business as usual that ignores them in favor of the rich to influence politics. Motions like the one in this article are part of the driving force for who is going to be elected and who will not make the grade.

On the face of it, I am tired of both party’s games like the one demonstrated here. Evidently I’m not alone in this matter. Those gaining front runner status are not the big money picks.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The public talks a good game, but when the chips are down, the keep re-electing the same collection of idiots to the congress, as if they will suddenly do something different.

Trump and Sanders may lead, but as Obama has proven, being a popular President (at least at election) doesn’t mean you hold much sway over the dinosaurs rumbling around the congress. The voters really love them dinos, and every 6 years or so they get together and give them a pat on the head and send them back to Washington to ignore the public some more.

The game here isn’t the one Karl thinks. It’s not about cable companies buying votes (they can do that if they like), rather it’s about the congress working to keep power for itself. They know that allowing an agency to essentially write the rules isn’t in their interest.

Don’t attribute to bribery and payoofs what is more easily explained in simple terms of power and control for elected politicians. Self-justification and busy work are what keep them employed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think those bribes are about as ‘illegal’ as a woman wearing a purple dress riding sidesaddle on a horse on a Tuesday afternoon: probably on the books somewhere, but generally recognized as an humorous anachronistic vestigial organ.

– Much like using an ‘an’ with an ‘h’ word. I’m frightfully sophisticated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Journalist bait.

This is an attempt by providers to change the public dialog from civil rights abuses to one of rate regulation in order to argue that the FCC is the one constraining trade.

The right wing radio hosts will undoubtedly run with that bait. It is easier to sell “da gobberment is bad”, than it is to explain how the Cable cabal are usurping civil rights by acting as independent agents of state.

In regards to “ensuring uniform availability.”, that would certainly be a failure on the part of the FCC. “Uniformity” isn’t just about getting bandwidth, it is about getting _untampered_ with bandwidth.

Packet queing techniques and mail delivery techniques are similar in their Constitutional application. If you are unwrapping mail in transit you are violating the 4th. If you are refusing transport of political speech you are violating the 1st. If you are refusing transport based on competitive business practice you are violating anti trust law.

The Cable cabal commits these abuses EVERY DAY. Incidentally, it is likely that some of the complaining about data caps was false flag operation by the cabal itself in order to shift the debate onto pricing.

Sorry TD. But we all get suckered every once in a while.

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