House Passes Bill Attempting To Gut Net Neutrality, Supporters Declare The Internet Saved

from the up-is-down dept

As we’ve been discussing, the House has been pushing a new bill dubbed the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act” (pdf). As the name implies, the bill is being framed as a way to keep an “out of control” government from imposing new price caps on broadband, not coincidentally as the broadband industry increasingly eyes usage caps and overages to take advantage of a lack of sector competition. The bill has numerous problems, not least of which being that a special definition of “rate regulation” included in the bill would effectively prevent the FCC from doing, well, anything.

Of course despite these problems the House has passed the measure 241 to 173, with folks like Marsha Blackburn insisting she’s saved the day:

“We all know that what they’d like to do is regulate the Internet so they can tax the Internet, so they could then come in and set all the rates,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.”

With most people still not really even understanding what the Internet is, House supporters of the bill have great success in framing net neutrality as an attempt to tax the Internet. The primary pusher of the bill, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, proudly proclaimed at his website that the net neutrality-killing bill would actually foster greater innovation and “better services” for consumers:

“Since its inception, the Internet has been free from rate regulation and has thrived under that model. Both Chairman Wheeler and President Obama assured Congress and the public that any regulations that were adopted under the open Internet order would refrain from allowing the federal government to regulate rates of broadband Internet access. H.R. 2666 codifies both the President?s and Chairman Wheelers? past promises and will allow innovative companies to do what they do best: create new products and better services to benefit consumers.”

Of course by gutting FCC authority over an un-competitive broadband market you’d obviously be doing the exact opposite, though given that AT&T is a top Kizinger donor, he’s apparently willing to overlook any concerns on that front. Fortunately the White House has stated it intends to veto this latest bill should it wind its way through the Senate, making the effort an entirely empty gesture — outside of it being a public oath of fealty to telecom campaign contributors.

As the EFF is quick to note, those who thought the neutrality fight was over last February when the FCC voted to approve the rules need to realize it’s going to take constant fighting and public attention to keep those rules in place. The Presidential election and the ongoing industry lawsuits against the FCC remain the biggest threat to the rules, though no limit of bills continue to be introduced that aim to cut neutrality off at the knees, usually under the guise of trying to save the Internet from “Internet populists” and a power-mad FCC.

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Comments on “House Passes Bill Attempting To Gut Net Neutrality, Supporters Declare The Internet Saved”

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44 Comments
nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

To be pedantic, NONE of them represent ME. The guys I voted for didn’t win.

To be even more pedantic, that isn’t how our system works. Your representative represents you in Congress, whether you voted for that person or not, or indeed whether you agree with him or her about anything at all. Your opinion of the adequacy of that representation is a different matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Sadly, my rep voted for. I was a little surprised since he has a record of occasionally voting against the party line.

I did email him a week ago, and never got a response – which I suppose was indicative, as he usually sends out a response when I email him about legislation, letting me know his opinion. In this case, the silence was probably an indicator that he had no opinion and planned on simply voting with all the other Republicans.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"You're not allowed to do that, that's MY job!"

“We all know that what they’d like to do is regulate the Internet so they can tax the Internet, so they could then come in and set all the rates,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.”

Which is completely different, somehow, from the cable companies in effective if not actual monopoly positions around the country making ‘Take it or leave it’ offers to the people in those areas.

Cable companies ‘set all the rates’? Market working as intended, no problem.

FCC stepping in to ‘set all the rates’ by keeping said companies from screwing over their customers too much, or simply threatening intervention if they go too overboard? Massive abuse of power that must be stopped.

Shilling says:

How can they frame net neutrality as taxing the internet.

Customer point of view.
No competition=higher prices=more profit for isp’s=more taxes go to the government=taxing the internet.

Business point of view.
Paying for your content to use no data from data cap=more profit for ISP’s=more taxes go to the government=taxing the internet.

Regulating to allow for competition/net neutrality.
Cheaper plans for customers. Lesser profits for ISP’s. Less taxes for the government.

Logic and politics don’t go well together I guess.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“How can they frame net neutrality as taxing the internet.

They comes around because of a very simple premise,one that has occurred over and over again in the history of the US. A new industry comes along, the government first “regulates” it, and then over time the regulated industry becomes subject to taxes, a new source of revenue for the financially strapped government.

Regulation is almost a requirement for taxation. Regulation defines an industry or group which is subject to the regulation, and in turn, the people hwo create taxes use the regulated group to define who is subject to the new tax.

As an example, it would be possible for the feds to pass in the next budget cycle a law that says “all Title II internet companies must pay a $5 per user tax”. It would be a simple grab, clear and simple, and would be easy to implement because the group is already defined.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Given the alternative of no regulation, or no enforced regulation, I think it’s worth the risk. While the FCC might decide down the road to throw in a ‘per user tax'(not likely, but it might happen I suppose), as has been amply demonstrated without outside pressure to curb their greed, or at least the more blatant examples of it the cable companies will do that and more simply because they can.

Buy a law or two to make sure that no competition can set up in an area, allowing you to charge whatever you want because those in the area have no other choice?

Introduce completely unnecessary caps and then charge people to go over them, again because there’s no other alternative?

An FCC that does more than sit around and make ‘Tut tut’ noises when the cable companies get too greedy in screwing over the public might cause some problems down the road if the FCC gets a little ‘over-enthusiastic’, but given the alternative I’d say it’s still the better option.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“While the FCC might decide down the road to throw in a ‘per user tax”

it’s not the FCC that would impose any tax – it would be congress. As a method to raise 100 million a year, a $5 per internet connection tax would be a great way to make them pay. Making it apply to “title II internet providers” is key.

A few years later, raise it to $10… then $20, then $5 a month… why not? You can see it as a perfect slippery slope. Taxing the internet is a politician’s wet dream!

Shilling says:

Re: Re: Re:

My whole point was that not regulating net neutrality is already a tax on the internet as companies have to pay ISP’s for their content to not be restricted on their networks. Earning these ISP’s more profits which means more profit tax for the government.

Same with competitionreducing laws. Less competition means ISP’s can charge more for what they offer. Resulting in more profits which can be taxed.its just as much a money grab from politicians as from the isp’s.

As far as I know the FCC can only regulate and not introduce a tax per connection. That is the job for congress. So I do not understand your comparison.

freakanatcha (profile) says:

Net neutrality

I’m a U.S. Congressman and have a tough election coming up. I called the Comcast lobbyist and they put me on hold for an hour. Finally, they said the lobbyist would bring me my cash tomorrow sometime between 8 and noon.

Well, its 2pm and I’ve waited around all day and the Comcast lobbyist still hasn’t shown up with my money!

Anonymous Coward says:

Broadband != Internet

“Internet” is based on actual standards. “Broadband” is just another B.S. marketing term. The FCC defines “broadband” and regulates it, so that congress can say it doesn’t regulate “Internet” access.

If the carriers don’t get broken up, (content||carrier), eventually Congress is going to find a lie that works, and the grenade will go off before the sane among us can put the pin back in.

At that point, there will be no Internet in the United States. Just a bunch of corporate subscriber networks. The communications sector growth will stunt. The carriers will constrain new communications technologies by increasing filter depth at the network edges. They will do this because it is cheaper to deny service and increase prices, than it is to keep up with progress in a competitive market.

This is already happening to some extent. More invasive network management practices have been progressively increasing at a snails pace for years. Unsophisticated users just don’t notice the water rising.

Content or Carrier. Pick ONE. There is no middle ground here. For there to be a middle ground would require a fundamental re-engineering of the protocol stack, and that would mean changing out half the equipment in the network.

Typically the engineering staff at the corresponding companies WOULD do that. They change this gear out all the time anyway. So making the network more free and more equitable isn’t really much more work.

But at the political layer it isn’t about civic duty or good engineering. It is about what percentage of the domestic population is owned by which corporate Barons. Note that this isn’t growth, but relative growth. Break the carriers up (content||carrier) and there will be another tech boom within 2 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

*Scratches head*

How remarkable. It’s very rare to see governments taxing because of consumer friendly regulations, like net neutrality.

Still, I’ve seen lots of taxation related to business friendly regulations. From copying levies, to taxes on internet to pay for TV or other works non related to the internet.

Strangely, most of those taxes are copyright related.

Would be interesting to see the reps gutting copyright laws because they can be used to tax the free internet too.

Not that it will happen…

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