Here Comes The Big Push For A Really Shitty New Net Neutrality Law
from the k-street-two-step dept
So we’ve noted repeatedly how major ISPs aren’t just pushing to have the FCC kill its existing, popular net neutrality rules. They’ve also been spending a lot of time and money pushing loyal politicians to support the crafting of a new net neutrality law as a replacement. Why? They know that if Congress is even capable of shrugging off its dysfunction and corruption to craft one, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter lawyers and lobbyists will be the ones writing it.
On the surface, having Congress craft a new law sounds like a good idea. It finally cements rules into law, and prevents the FCC rules from being created and killed repeatedly by the whims of appointed partisans. And while I’ve seen a lot of journalists support this route, most of them don’t quite understand just how strong of a stranglehold these corporations have over state and federal lawmakers and regulators.
There’s one reason ISPs support this route: they want to “put the debate to rest” with a flimsy net neutrality law that doesn’t actually address any of the current net neutrality areas of contention (usage caps, interconnection, zero rating), only really outlawing things ISPs never intended to do anyway (block websites entirely). As with the FCC’s flimsy 2010 rules (that were co-written by AT&T, Verizon and Google), there will be massive, tractor-trailer sized loopholes allowing them to do pretty much whatever they want, provided they at least pretend it’s for the security and safety of the network.
And while this ISP push for a new net neutrality law has been smoldering under the radar for a while, it’s about to be amped up dramatically. House Republicans are asking the CEOs of Facebook, Google, AT&T and Comcast to attend a public hearing in September, purportedly to “help settle the debate over net neutrality once and for all.” But if you look at the language used in the invite by Rep. Greg Walden, the objective becomes more clear:
“In a letter requesting their appearance, Walden said the open internet rules put in place during the Obama administration ? which subject broadband providers to utility-like regulation ? ?disrupted the longstanding regulatory balance that for years allowed the internet to grow and thrive.”
As Pai looks to repeal them, however, it gives both sides ?an opportunity to rethink the current regulatory model and build new rules from the ground up? in Congress, Walden continued.
?With your help, I know we can craft a fair, predictable and sustainable solution that not only benefits edge providers and internet service providers, but also the billions of consumers worldwide that deserve a free and open internet,? he told chief executives in his letter requesting their help.
On the surface, if you’re willing to ignore the false claims about how net neutrality stifled the telecom sector, this all sounds lovely.
Of course if you’ve been playing along at home, many of these Silicon Valley companies aren’t the net neutrality supporters they claim to be. Google hasn’t given much of a shit about net neutrality since around 2010 or so when it began pushing harder into the fixed-line broadband (Google Fiber) and wireless (Project Fi, Android) markets. Facebook likes to occasionally pretend to support net neutrality, but internationally has been trampling the concept repeatedly. Even Netflix, a one-time staunch supporter of net neutrality, has softened its stance now that it’s large and wealthy enough to afford AT&T, Comcast and Verizon troll tolls.
So what will be framed as a “consensus” for “a fair, predictable and sustainable solution” is really just going to be a bunch of massive companies getting together and throwing their support behind what will inevitably be a shitty law that’s a far cry from the semi-tough, popular protections we have now. They want this whole debate settled because there’s money to be made ignoring consumer welfare. And they want it settled with legislation that looks like its protecting consumers and the open internet, but sanctions all of the bad ideas ISPs have been chomping at the bit to implement for years (caps, overage fees, zero rating).
And if you read a lot of the media reports on this subject, you’ll consistently find reporters helping to push this entire narrative with comments like this:
“That vicious cycle has left both sides of the debate pining for Congress, not the FCC, to broker a resolution on net neutrality, so that the government?s approach to internet policy doesn?t change depending on which party is in power ? or who prevails in federal courtrooms.”
Except “both sides” aren’t pining for new legislation. Net neutrality supporters have repeatedly stated there’s a wonderful, zero-cost, no effort way to protect net neutrality: keep the current FCC rules in place. The drum beat for new legislation is primarily coming from ISPs, who again want to replace the existing rules with the legislative equivalent of fluff and nonsense. As the summer rolls along and fall approaches, supporters of net neutrality need to pay attention and better understand the real nature of this legislative push, or the healthy, competitive and open internet is going to be in a hell of a lot of trouble.