Ted Cruz Pushing Bill Protecting Large ISPs From Competition

from the defenders-of-the-status-quo dept

We’ve long noted how ISPs have convinced (read: paid) more than twenty states to pass protectionist broadband laws that prohibit towns and cities from improving their own broadband infrastructure. The bills not only saddle community broadband with onerous restrictions to make them less viable, they often even block towns and cities from striking public/private partnerships with companies to improve broadband. Last year, the FCC voted to take aim at two such laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, arguing the laws do little but protect the status quo, hindering the development of alternative broadband delivery options.

Pressured by ISPs, both states quickly rushed to sue the FCC, saying that the agency was violating “states rights” (ignoring the rights violated by letting ISPs write awful state law). The FCC, in contrast, says its Congressional mandate to ensure “even and timely” broadband deployment under the Communications Act gives it full legal authority to take aim at such restrictions.

Enter Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, who is now pushing amendments alongside Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer that would make a few changes to the FCC Process Reform Act. According to an early version of the proposal provided to industry trade magazines, the bill would tie the FCC’s hands when it comes to trying to eliminate state broadband protectionism:

“FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says those laws are pushed by incumbents to prevent price and service competition and the FCC has stepped in to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina. The FCC is currently in a court battle over that decision. The amendment, according to the amendment list obtained by Multichannel News/B&C, “Prohibits the FCC form preventing states from implementing laws relating to provision of broadband Internet access service by state and local governments.”

This is far from the first effort of this kind. Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn pushed a similar measure last year. Usually, the measures try to sow partisan discord by claiming the FCC has just gone power mad, again hoping nobody notices giants like Comcast and AT&T performing state lawmaker puppetry in the periphery to the detriment of local communities.

Note these towns and cities aren’t getting into the broadband industry because they think it’s fun; they’re exploring alternative options because the private sector has failed across huge swaths of the country. Unfortunately, large ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable quite literally control most state legislatures, ensuring things stay that way. ISPs could prevent these kinds of efforts by providing better, cheaper broadband — though obviously lobbying our compromised state legislative systems is notably less expensive than deploying new fiber — or lowering prices to compete.

The problem for Cruz is that while ISPs have historically tried to frame municipal broadband as a partisan debate to sow discord, that has been less effective over time as public/private efforts from the likes of Google Fiber or Tucows have highlighted the need for some bigger picture thinking. The majority of such networks are now being built in more Conservative leaning areas, and the idea of municipal broadband tends to have broad, bipartisan support. Apparently, disdain for duopoly apathy and high prices is one of the few things most Americans can agree on.

As such, rushing to defend giant telecom providers from competition doesn’t seem like the brightest bet for somebody trying to win hearts and minds ahead of a national election.

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Comments on “Ted Cruz Pushing Bill Protecting Large ISPs From Competition”

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29 Comments
Skeeter says:

Re: Do the Right Thing...

Keep in mind that ‘the right thing’ may not be the obvious thing. A lot of people love to watch pro-wrestling, too. It is ordered, structured, and well-lit. It is also fake. Just because you are told Cruz is vehemently against Trump, don’t jump to the conclusion that you aren’t watching a wrestling match. Why? Because, the sheep would be unhappy if they just ‘placed’ their patsy. You MUST be led to believe that you CHOSE your betrayer, instead.

Skeeter says:

Re: Re:

There will never be another fairly-elected ‘by the People’ U.S. President. Corporations buy our laws, and combined with foreign interests, finance our Presidential Elections. As someone once said, ‘when the product is free, YOU are the market’. Nothing like 320-million endentured (and well-behaved) sheep servants to add to those banks, corporations, and off-shore interests. Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

There are two issues here: 1. In the interest of state’s rights, the FCC (or any federal agency) shouldn’t interfere in state law, and 2. If the people in those states don’t like the law, they can petition their representatives to change it. If they feel they’ve suffered material damage, sue.

Just because we don’t like a law that favors large corporations doesn’t mean we should ask the feds to step in and be a bully.

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Re:

  1. The 10th Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

pretty much defines “States Rights.” But the commerce clause of the Constitution permits the US Government to control/manage interstate commerce. I can’t think of anything more interstate (in both political meanings of the word “state”) than broadband access, so “states rights” does not apply. The states should not be intruding on the domain of the FCC.

2. Yea, right. The broadband companies can donate relatively huge amounts to state legislators, helping their campaign war chests, and hand them the words to use in their bills. The legislators get resources they need to be re-elected, and the broadband companies get the right to do things like defining “broadband” as whatever they can get away with. Until funding of elections is reformed, anyone who wants to “petition their representatives to change it” can pretty much expect nothing.

And suing due to material damage? That depends on whether the broadband company has forced you to agree to arbitration…

Just because the FCC, until Tom Wheeler (I hope), has ignored it’s duty for decades and let the states tilt the playing field, doesn’t mean the FCC can’t now step up and insist that there are lines which should not be crossed.

I hope it gets better, but the states should have very little say in this; it is an FCC matter.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The two are one and the same. The thing most people don’t get these days is that racism was never about racism. It was always simply a means to an end, and that end was profit.

If you look at historical documents of Southern slaveholders’ anti-emancipation arguments, you find very little in the way of ideological justification for racism for its own sake. In fact, what you do find sounds surprisingly modern, basically boiling down to “if you force us to treat our laborers like human beings, it will DESTROY OUR ECONOMY!!!!!!”

The only real difference is, it used to be black laborers being oppressed, and now it’s everyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s a reason why Boehner calls Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh”. Seems Cruz makes enemies where ever he goes. Cruz would make a terrible president and I am happy to see him by the way side after his attempts to get around having voters actually vote to support him as opposed to just having delegates vote without input from voters. Face it, it was a sleezy way to try and win.

http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/04/28/john-boehner-talks-election-time-in-office/

Anonymous Coward says:

Sick of this!

Note these towns and cities aren’t getting into the broadband industry because they think it’s fun; they’re exploring alternative options because the private sector has failed across huge swaths of the country.

the Private sector has not failed…. you sycophantic love for regulation did this!

Regulatory Capture is the problem and all I hear is the call for more regulation. How far does this need to go before you blithering idiots figure this out!

We do not need regulation, instead we need strong anti-trust and anti-monopoly law! Regulation just makes government corruption one stop shopping for the businesses out there! Even here at Tech Dirt, where the average IQ should be a little higher than other areas should be able to figure this out, but no… just as stupid as the lay people.

Those of you hating Capitalism, name a single economic power that has birthed more wealth for its citizenry? That’s right there isn’t one.

Those of you hating Free Markets, go away… we do not have a free market, stop blaming the free market for the failure of socialist regulation of the market. Place blame right where it belongs, on the worthless American citizens that think government should be giving them a safety net and beating back those evil rich guys as though the government is somehow less evil and not in cahoots with them to begin with!

You keep voting in the idiots causing these issues and you are refusing to turn back government corruption as jury members. The nation will fall because the citizens have destroyed it, not because a few fucking corrupt turds got into power and made up some bullshit rules!

Greg Gilbert says:

Re: Sick of this!

Exactly. Fiber deployment’s problem is that it is expensive and has a ton of regulatory issues when trying to stretch fiber across towns.

The problem needs to be looked at intelligently and understood and not through vilifying people.

People need to get with their community leaders and work out solutions to easing up ways of getting more competition. It’s a complicated problem.

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