White House Threatens To Veto Bill Attempting To Gut Net Neutrality, Defang FCC
from the sing-for-your-supper dept
As we just noted, the House has been pushing yet another bill that attempts to punish the FCC for its uncharacteristic new habit of actually standing up to giant ISPs. The “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act” (pdf) professes to be a bill focused on curtailing government run amok; with a particular eye on preventing the FCC from being able to regulate broadband rates (not-coincidentally just as ISPs begin heavily pursuing usage caps). But the bill uses a unique definition of “rate regulation” to, in reality, ban the FCC from doing, well, pretty much anything.
Given that in the last year-and-a-half the FCC has passed neutrality laws, finally stood up for municipal broadband, raised the definition of broadband to 25 Mbps (to emphasize competitive shortcomings), and is now pondering both new broadband privacy rules and opening the captive cable set top box market to competition, you can kind of see why the bill was a priority for both large ISPs and their Congressional allies. Stopping this new, uncharacteristically pro-consumer and pro-competition FCC has become a priority.
Bills like this one do a great job riling up those upset about numerous, other instances of actual government overreach — especially folks that don’t understand the broken telecom market or the nuances of net neutrality, or that the FCC under Tom Wheeler has actually been doing some non-idiotic things for arguably the first time in twenty years. But such bills are empty showmanship in that they require a President’s signature to pass.
And according to a new statement of administration policy by the White House (pdf), that’s simply not happening:
“H.R. 2666 is overly broad and extends far beyond codifying the FCC’s forbearance from applying provisions of the Communications Act related to tariffs, rate approval, or other forms of utility regulation. Even as amended, H.R. 2666 would restrict the FCC’s ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers on issues where the FCC has received numerous consumer complaints. The bill also would hamstring the FCC’s public interest authority to review transactions….If the President were presented with H.R. 2666, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
There remains only a few ways to defang the FCC and/or truly gut net neutrality.
ISPs could get Congress to pass a new law that enshrines net neutrality rules that are weaker than what the FCC has proposed, though Senators John Thune and Representative Fred Upton tried this and it went nowhere. ISPs could also still win the ongoing lawsuit against the FCC, which would gut some or all of the rules (a ruling is expected shortly). Or ISPs could work to elect a President who opposes net neutrality and will set about making sure the FCC returns to its more traditional role of being a toothless, gutless, shell of a regulator dedicated to protecting the telecom status quo.
The House, of course, knows their options are limited, and that bills like this — and the constant parade of taxpayer-funded FCC “fact finding” hearings — don’t actually accomplish anything. They do, however, rile up the uninformed, and do a fine job reminding giant telecom companies that Congress is ready and willing to dance on command for continued telecom campaign contributions.