Ted Cruz Doubles Down On Being Wrong: Pushes Yet Another Net Neutrality Killing Bill
from the freedom* dept
Eager to ignore the broad, bipartisan support net neutrality enjoys, nine GOP Senators this week introduced legislation that would kill the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Senator Mike Lee’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” would prohibit the FCC from classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act and “from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.” In other words, it’s a parallel attempt to kill net neutrality in Congress while FCC boss Ajit Pai tries to kill the rules via FCC process.
Lee didn’t release the text of the bill, but it’s expected to look very similar to a 2016 bill he introduced during the 114th Congress with the same 8 co-sponsors. Lee tries to argue in a statement over at his website that his bill is necessary to keep “bureaucrats” away from “engineering the internet’s infrastructure”:
But now this engine of growth is threatened by the Federal Communications Commission?s 2015 Open Internet Order, which would put federal bureaucrats in charge of engineering the Internet?s infrastructure. That is why I am introducing the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which would nullify Open Internet Order and prohibit the FCC from issuing a similar rule in the future.
You’ll likely be shocked to learn that the only “freedoms” being restored here belong to companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Said companies have spent the better part of a decade and millions of dollars on a quest for zero oversight of one of the least competitive sectors in American industry.
Should the rules die, AT&T will once again have the freedom to block you from using certain services unless you subscribe to a more expensive broadband tier. Comcast can use its unnecessary usage caps and overage fees to make competing services more expensive for its customers to use. Companies like Verizon can get back to intentionally letting peering points congest to make content and transit companies pay them more money than ever for the honor of reaching Verizon subscribers.
Somehow, Lee thinks that gutting the already too-modest rules preventing this kind of behavior will somehow increase “permissionless innovation.” That makes zero coherent sense.
These abuses aren’t theoretical. They’ve either already happened or are happening now. And FCC boss Ajit Pai’s ingenious “solution” is to eliminate modest and widely supported rules and replace them with “voluntary” guidelines companies like Comcast will ignore. The idea that net neutrality is simply an issue of government “overreach” plays well to knee-jerk partisans that aren’t informed on the subject, but it doesn’t become any less false with repetition. In reality, the FCC has spent fifteen years turning a blind eye to the problem of limited competition, and the 2015 rules, if anything, didn’t go far enough.
A few years ago, when Tom Wheeler began bucking 15 years of bipartisan FCC precedent by actually doing his job, you’ll recall that Senator Ted Cruz was widely ridiculed for his claim that net neutrality was “Obamacare for the internet.” Despite even Republican engineers informing him this narrative couldn’t be more inaccurate, Cruz (a bill co-sponsor) took the opportunity this week to double down. According to Cruz, he was being incredibly and intentionally misleading to “raise awareness”:
“My comments (equating net neutrality to “Obamacare”) were intended to raise awareness of this unprecedented government power grab, which the Obama administration and its friends at the FCC were attempting to quietly accomplish. I am proud to work with my friend Mike Lee on the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, a bill that rolls back former President Obama’s power grab, protects open internet principles, and recognizes the transformative effect that the internet has had on our lives, generating billions of dollars of new economic activity and millions of jobs, largely free of government?s heavy hand. We must preserve a free and open internet, and give stability to the companies and users operating within the internet ecosystem.”
Yes, let’s “preserve a free and open internet” by letting giant broadband monopolies cap, throttle, restrict and otherwise hamstring the endless startups, entrepreneurs, content companies and consumers that use the internet everyday. You’ll notice that folks like Cruz are quick to heap praise on the miracle of the modern internet, but are comically incapable of admitting the threat that limited competition is posing to said miracle. Obviously, if you admit there’s a problem, then you might just have to do something about it. And deep-pocketed campaign contributors Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon sure as hell don’t want that.
As Mike just got done pointing out, net neutrality opponents have a gameplan you need to understand. Step one is for Ajit Pai to play bad cop and threaten net neutrality via FCC rollback. Step two is for Congress to come to the rescue with a “compromise” bill (actually written by Comcast and friends, of course) that promises to “solve” net neutrality once and for all — but is packed with so many loopholes, caveats and contingencies to be worse than no rules at all. If this bill doesn’t do the trick, giant ISPs will ensure there’s a flood of similar proposals waiting in the wings.