Right On Cue, Marsha Blackburn Introduces A Fake Net Neutrality Bill To Make The FCC's Idiotic Decision Permanent

from the the-best-laws-money-can-buy dept

As we just got done saying, giant ISPs are well aware that last week’s unpopular FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rests on very shaky legal ground. The agency will be facing all manner of lawsuits in the new year from competitors and consumer groups that quite correctly highlight the blatant fraud and bizarre missteps that occurred during the proceeding. Those lawsuits will also argue that the FCC is violating the Administrative Procedure Act by passing a law without proving that the broadband market had changed enough in just two years to warrant such a severe, unpopular reversal (tip: it didn’t).

As such, ISPs are already pushing hard to codify the FCC’s idiotic and unpopular repeal into law. ISPs like Comcast are claiming they’re just so interested in protecting the open internet (after spending millions to dismantle real net neutrality rules) that a law their lobbyists likely wrote is the only path forward now. But these bills have one purpose: to prevent any future FCCs or Congressional lawmakers from passing meaningful rules down the road.

Enter Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn, who has for years been a glorified rubber stamp for AT&T and Comcast, going so far as to support state-level laws that hamstring competition and erode local rights. Today Blackburn unveiled the “Open Internet Preservation Act” (pdf), which, as we predicted, bans things like outright throttling, but ignores numerous other possible avenues of abuse by ISPs, including zero rating, paid prioritzation, and interconnection shenanigans. The bill also tries to ban states from trying to protect net neutrality in the wake of federal apathy, another gem ISPs like Comcast have been coincidentally lobbying for the last few months.

Blackburn made sure to leak first looks at her bill to news outlets she knew would be sure to parrot any number of net neutrality falsehoods that were debunked years ago:

“Rep. Blackburn told Breitbart News why she decided to unveil her legislation to codify the laws of a free and open Internet. She said, ?When you talk to innovators in the online space, one of the things that is frustrating to them is that the rules of the internet continue to change over the last few years. What we want to do is codify the rules of an open internet.”

?What we saw with the Wheeler order in 2015 was really control of the Internet. We are going to put rules in place that will stop the ping-ponging depending on who?s in charge of the FCC. This is an issue that should be decided by Congress,? Blackburn added.

Of course Blackburn would have you ignore the fact that her rhetoric almost exactly mirrors a blog post Comcast posted just a few days ago, or the fact that her bill was likely written by Comcast and AT&T lawyers and lobbyists. She’d also have you ignore that the “innovators” she pays lip service to strongly oppose the repeal of the current rules, as nearly 1000 startups made very clear back in April. Blackburn also took to Twitter to regurgitate numerous debunked industry canards, like the entirely bogus claim that net neutrality rules hurt sector investment:

Again, these folks couldn’t give less of a damn about “protecting the open internet.” They’re solely looking out for the interests of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter. And what these ISPs want (and are in the process of getting) is a complete dismantling of both federal and state oversight of telecom duopolies so they can continue abusing the lack of competition in the sector for the foreseeable future. They know the FCC’s repeal is in jeopardy of being overturned by the courts, so they’re trying to rush through shitty legislation that effectively makes violating net neutrality legal.

It’s likely this will be the first of several bills of this type, and the inclination on some fronts will be to suggest that “a bad bill is better than no protections at all.” But that’s a naive interpretation of what ISPs are attempting here. As we just noted, any ISP-supported net neutrality legislation will ban things ISPs never intended to do (like outright blocking of Netflix), but won’t cover any of the more nuanced areas where net neutrality violations are now occurring (usage caps, zero rating, interconnection). Why rush to support a bill that simply acts to make most violations legal?

A better solution is to find away to keep the current rules intact. It’s unlikely, but that could occur via use of the Congressional Review Act. Much more likely is the repeal being overturned by the courts, thanks to the FCC’s apathy toward fraud and the public interest. Even if ISPs win in the courts, net neutrality fans are better off riding the looming backlash and using it to drive ISP-loyal sycophants out of public office at the polls, then attempting a real net neutrality law later — when Congress is a little less mindlessly loyal to the desires of some of the least-liked, least-competitive companies in America.

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Companies: at&t, comcast, verizon

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Comments on “Right On Cue, Marsha Blackburn Introduces A Fake Net Neutrality Bill To Make The FCC's Idiotic Decision Permanent”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In implementation NN is not distinguishable from the 1st amendment. It stands therefore that a Congress that holds the former in contempt, does so with the latter. It is folly to presume that a such a Congress can hear the speech it has purposefully isolated itself from.

We should very much like it were it not so. But at some point you have to stop wishing. We are not talking about preserving the 1st amendment any more. We are talking about restoring it. At that point we are no longer “fans”. We are patriots. Made so by those who would trifle with our inalienable rights without consideration or forethought.

See you at the next protest, patriots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Cable modems”, that don’t modulate.

“internet” instead of “Internet” (the two having entirely different technical definitions)

“routers”, that don’t route.

“cloud”, which is really just a marketing term that means: “shit the sales guy doesn’t understand”

“domain”, which is used in at least a half dozen different ways depending on which mega corp is trying to sell you something.

It comes down to marketers redefining words post facto, and english majors validating those wrong definitions because their fiefdom over syntax is more important in their minds, than communicating accurately.

Then those wrong definitions cascade down to Congress, whose linguistic machinations start with meanings that have the clarity of the east river, and end somewhere in the level of a linguistic equivalent of an EPA superfund site.

You can’t speak accurately, if you don’t speak the language. And when it comes to NN, common english might as well be Tahitian.

(and yes, the E is demoted intentionally. You fuck with my proper nouns, I fuck with yours you fucking english major fucks.) (does this get past the filters, or is that one to many “fucks?”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So her ‘Protect the Internet’ bill would redefine the definition of broadband to anything other than dial-up, drastically worse than even the previous definition of 10 Mbps.

Reading through it it becomes really clear that if it wasn’t literally written by the companies that own her, it might as well have been, as nothing in the bill that I can see is a negative to the telecom companies, rather it’s gift after gift, benefit after protection for the industry.

From redefining broadband to anything other than dial-up(pg 5), coding into law that the FCC is prohibited by law from doing introducing any rules or regulations beyond what’s in her bill(pg 2-3), barring states from attempting to take up the slack by introducing their own laws(pg 3-4), legally classifying broadband as an ‘information service'(pg 5), and ending by adding yet another ‘lets throw more government money at the telecom industry’ way for them to get even more money from the government(pg 6-7).

You couldn’t get a more blatant present to the telecom industry if someone from one of the companies had written it themselves(and that’s assuming this one wasn’t, not something I’d bet against).

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Wikipedia: Marsha Blackburn: Telecommunications

Blackburn has been closely associated with the telecommunications industry over the course of her career, as of 2017, Blackburn had accepted at least $693,000 in campaign contributions from telecom companies over her 14-year career in Congress.

Blackburn is an opponent of net neutrality in the United States, referring to it as "socialistic".

Blackburn opposes municipal broadband initiatives that aim to compete with Internet service providers.

She supported bills that restrict municipalities from creating their own broadband networks, and wrote a bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from pre-empting state laws that blocked municipal broadband.

In early 2017, Blackburn introduced to the House a measure to dismantle an Obama-administration online privacy rule that had been adopted by the FCC in October 2016. Blackburn’s measure, which was supported by broadband providers but criticized by privacy advocates, repealed the rule which required broadband providers to obtain consumers’ permission before sharing their online data, including browsing histories.

The measure passed the House in a party-line vote in March 2017, after a similar measure had been passed by the Senate the same week. She subsequently proposed legislation which expanded the requirement to include internet companies as well as broadband providers.

Also a climate change denier, anti-civil rights, a reliable source of anti-Obamacare wingnuttery, and a border wall and Muslim ban supporter.

In her defence, there’s no word on her being banned from any shopping malls.

Iggy says:

This will have consequences

Once their constituents realize the contempt with which theyre treated by these representatives, they’re not likely to forget it soon. The three anti NN FCC commissioners knowingly and blatantly lied to millions of people. The consequences will be long lasting and could very well reshape the current party system.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: This will have consequences

I don’t see Tennessee going blue.

It’s likely that Democrats will pick up seats in 2018, but it’s unclear how many; maybe they’ll get a majority in one or both houses, and maybe they won’t.

Long-term? People under 45 are not voting Republican. The party is going to have to make some very big changes if it’s still going to be viable in a generation. This is not to say the Democrats don’t have their share of problems, but I don’t think their problems represent the kind of long-term threat that the Republicans’ do.

As for net neutrality? It hasn’t swung any elections yet. That could change, but it’s not going to be easy. There are people who are single-issue voters on abortion, guns, and healthcare; NN hasn’t reached the level where it’s that kind of litmus test yet, and it’s not going to be easy for it to compete with those issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This will have consequences

“I don’t see Tennessee going blue.”

Perhaps not, but her seat could certainly go libertarian. The question then would be whether you could find a libertarian who understands the problem who could run for the seat.

It is a really simple problem to explain. You take your average Tennessean out of the trailer, point at the telephone pole, and say:

” If there was a second cable up there, your phone bill would be a shit ton cheaper”

Then they can go back into the trailer until it is time to vote. Then you come back with a truck and take them to the poles, and give them 5 bucks or a nickle bag of smack to vote your way.

You see. Simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This will have consequences

” People under 45 are not voting Republican. The party is going to have to make some very big changes if it’s still going to be viable in a generation.”

Sure but the current politicians have the same view as CEO’s, that is they need to make $$$ on their bribes now and screw whoever has to fix it later.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This will have consequences

Republican doctrine ever since has been that history started in January 2009. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of their administration simply didn’t exist in the 2012 primaries and convention.

If some commie Marxist socialist mentioned Bush II, the response was that “he wasn’t really a Republican anyway.”

This’ll happen with Trump. Republicans will get all the things they wanted, but couldn’t get without alienating the voters. More tax holidays for the rich, gutting health care, big expensive unneeded projects (border wall) that they can use to loot the treasury, erasing environmental and consumer protection laws, and of course Ajit Pai’s carnival of corruption.

It’s Republicans in Congress doing it, but Trump will get the blame and you can’t blame Republicans because Trump was never really a Republican anyway. How dare you link him to Republicans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This will have consequences

Unless they’ve spent a half dozen tours in various shitholes all over the middle east since then.

In the 70’s they had to barricade the capitol against protests because of perpetual war. Now the propaganda is so personalized and effective, that most people don’t even know that we are still at war a decade later.

That is what you get when you combine complete liquidation of the 4th, and 1st amendment. Complete psychological control. And now with inhome surveillance via IOT, the 3rd will soon be gone too.

After the 3rd, which one will they go after next?..

Betting pool?

ECA (profile) says:

Lets say this


UNLESS the Gov. Consolidates, the INTERNET IS THEIRS IN WHOLE..

MOST of the internet and the Old phone service WERE/ARE SUBSIDIZED… The Phone lines, because the Corps didnt want to install lines into the Country sections..

OWNERSHIP of Cable/phone/ISP has become a game of 52 card pickup and people keep DROPPING THE CARDS..
Maintaining the WHOLE thing, DOES NOT cost that much…Cheaper then fixing the oil pipelines..(WHICH NEVER GET MAINTENANCE..)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

On one hand I really kind of want that provision to be passed. Because it will result in the states taking the case to SCOTUS. In that case it would be harder for SCOTUS to pull one of their shinanigans where they release an opinion filled with logical knots, and then stand back and say: “But that isn’t what we said”, when the lower courts totally ignore their decision.

PopeyeLePoteaux (profile) says:

Funny how the GOP is supposedly for “smaller government”, state rights and free market fundamentalism, but are premeptively prohibiting States and localities from implementing their own rules or building their own networks. Hypocrisy at it’s finest! The GOP has proven to have no principles and only money drives their concerns.

So in the end, the self-proclaimed party of state rights is working hard to undermine them when it conflicts with corporations’ profits. Shocking!

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually they are doing it right. They are setting very minimum regulation and stopping the states from piling on a bunch of stuff that would likely be widely different from state to state and hard for companies to work with.

Strong, simple, clear federal legislation (not just regulation) can resolve most of the problems here. Letting the states do whatever in an area that is really federal jurisdiction would be a very bad idea.

It’s bad enough with Europe (especially France) trying to tell everyone else what to do. Imagine 50 states with different privacy rules, telling companies that they can and cannot store emails or what have you. It would be nutty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You have to wonder how the fed would respond if the states simply refused to comply. What are they going to do? Send the FBI out to take down fiber? They could litigate, but if the state government simply refuses to comply with federal courts, then what? They take away federal funding to the states I guess. There is always that old chestnut.

Funny thing about I.P. is that it is resilient. You can put up cable faster than they can determine it isn’t their own and take it down. And even if they start tearing it down intentionally it will still self repair to some degree.

So black market networking is going to become more of a thing. And again, what will the state do? How do you tell the difference between two identically installed cables on the same pole?

Particularly in urban areas where installations have been going on for years. Those old vadding skills are going to be coming back into play it looks like.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s bad enough with Europe (especially France) trying to tell everyone else what to do. Imagine 50 states with different privacy rules, telling companies that they can and cannot store emails or what have you. It would be nutty.

Yes, if only there had been a single set of rules that would have applied no matter the state, such that they wouldn’t have to worry about different states putting forth different rules.

Now if I could only remember why various states are doing that… I swear, that pesky memory of mine acts up at the strangest of times.

Nyrgs (profile) says:

Is throttling, slow lanes, really prohibited?

H.R. 4682, The Open Internet Preservation Act, clearly states that legal content isn’t to be blocked. But I have to wonder about the claim that it prohibits ‘throttling,’ a term that isn’t used in the legislation. Instead, it reads “may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic.” Is this the same as bandwidth management? I suspect that managing network degradation and managing bandwidth aren’t necessarily synonymous. After all, you can prioritize content with the use of data caps and zero rating. But could it also be done with bandwidth management, such as assigning less bandwidth to YouTube than one’s own steaming service? I wonder. And sawing away the FCC’s regulatory oversight would be just the thing to allow all sorts of inventive and quite reasonable network management strategies that ‘throttle’ startups and the competition. I’m skeptical that the legislation would prevent throttling, in the sense that it would prevent content from being shunted off to the slow lane.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is throttling, slow lanes, really prohibited?


"may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management; and"

is a problem.

"reasonable network management" is not a concept that congress or the judiciary can be reasonably expected to interpret within Constitutional grounds. Now if they said: "reasonable network layer management" that would be a slightly different story.

The issue is not what they manage, it is where they manage it. The ISP has no need to be aware of the nature of the traffic except so far is is needed to troubleshoot.

Of course that is not how companies like AT&T and Comcast interpret "reasonable network management". I haven’t tested lately, but there is no reason to believe that they aren’t still doing passive TCP resets on their customers traffic. Which is direct interference with Constitutionally protected speech, and they have been doing it for years.

If there happens to be any congressional assistants reading this I will explain. They previously did active TCP resets, which is they would inject TCP RST commands into customer communications sessions to cause communication sessions to disconnect.

Passive TCP reset it when they use a QOS switch to monitor individual communications and simply, and quietly stop passing a particular communication session without injecting data into the session. Of course they can’t do this without actually monitoring the TCP frames.

The problem with that is that even the HEADER of the TCP frame that they are monitoring carries protected speech, in so far as it communicates the nature of the communication (by inferencing the port number) between one party and the next. Which is to say that passive TCP reset interferes with speech without consent just like active TCP resets. It is just harder to detect. Further it has no other function except to interfere with speech.

This whole debate is about one very simple question: "On the Internet, where does speech begin?"

And the answer to that question is: "At the first bit, of the first OSI layer 4 frame."

That is the ONLY practical answer. Any other answer requires interpretation of the law by the carrier. And they would rather pay to go to court, and smudge the edges of civil rights until those rights are no longer recognizable.

And the fact that Congress has never asked the question above in any public forum, or sought to understand it in any reasoned way, can no longer be attributed to ignorance. At this point it is either apathy or malice. Take your pick.

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