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:
Obamacare-era "net neutrality" is nothing more than a code word for government takeover of the internet. These regulations stifled internet investment and growth, and gave tech companies a free pass to censor users and block free speech.
— Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) December 19, 2017
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.