Terrified Of Losing In Court, ISPs (With Senator John Kennedy's Help) Push Hard For A Fake Net Neutrality Law

from the pretending-to-help dept

ISPs are worried that the FCC’s assault on net neutrality won’t hold up in the face of court challenge. And they should be.

By law, the FCC has to prove that the broadband market changed substantially enough in just a few years to warrant such a severe reversal of popular policy. And the numerous lawsuits headed the FCC’s direction (including one by nearly half the states in the union) will also take aim at all of the shady and bizarre behaviors by the FCC during its ham-fisted repeal, from making up a DDOS attack to try and downplay the John Oliver effect, to blocking a law enforcement investigation into the rampant fraud and identity theft that occurred during the public comment period.

With the FCC repeal on unsteady legal ground, ISPs have a back up plan for in case the FCC and its mega-ISP BFFs lose in court: bogus net neutrality legislation.

Last fall, AT&T-favorite Masha Blackburn introduced one such bill in the House dubbed the “Open Internet Preservation Act.” While the bill’s stated purpose was to reach “compromise” and “put the net neutrality debate to bed,” the bill’s real intent is notably more nefarious. While the bill would ban behaviors ISPs had no real interest in (like the outright blocking of websites), it contained numerous loopholes that allowed anti-competitive behavior across a wide variety of fronts, from zero rating tactics that exempt an ISPs own content from usage caps, to interconnection shenanigans or anti-competitive paid prioritization.

Basically, it’s a net neutrality law in name only, ghost written by the broadband industry. And its real purpose is three fold. One, it would pre-empt the 25 (and counting) state efforts to impose real net neutrality rules in the wake of federal apathy. It would also prevent any future FCC or Congress from passing real, tough federal rules should the FCC repeal succeed in court. And finally it would even pre-empt the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules from being restored should ISPs and the FCC lose in the major court battle to come.

This week the broadband industry pushed its plan a little harder, prompting Louisiana Senator John Kennedy to unveil a companion version of the bill in the Senate. The bill is a mirror copy of Blackburn’s HR 4682 in the House, and again, suffers from massive loopholes that allow all manner of anti-competitive behavior. That includes letting companies engage in paid prioritization deals, allowing companies like ESPN to buy a distinct competitive advantage over smaller content creators, startups and non-profits (most Techdirt readers should understand how that’s a really, really bad idea).

Having covered this sector for the better part of my adult life, I can assure you the bill Blackburn and Kennedy are pushing was ghost written by AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast lawyers and lobbyists. So it’s amusing to see Kennedy try to pretend in his press release for the bill that he’s somehow courageously standing up to telecom monopolies:

“Some cable companies and content providers aren?t going to be happy with this bill because it prohibits them from blocking and throttling web content. They won?t be able to micromanage your web surfing or punish you for downloading 50 movies each month. This bill strikes a compromise that benefits the consumer,? said Sen. Kennedy.”

Except it does nothing of the sort. The bill still allows ISPs to abuse a lack of competition by imposing arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees. A system that not only makes broadband (and streaming video) more expensive, but allows ISPs to give their own content a leg up via zero rating. Calling a ghost-written industry bill a “compromise” is like calling a punch to the nose “healthy negotiations.”

As has traditionally been the case with ISP allies pushing garbage legislation, Kennedy then tries to insist that anybody that refuses to support his industry-favored bill isn’t “serious” about protecting net neutrality:

“If the Democrats are serious about this issue and finding a permanent solution, then they should come to the table and work with me and Rep. Blackburn on these bills. Does this bill resolve every issue in the net neutrality debate? No, it doesn?t. It’s not a silver bullet. But it’s a good start.”

But it’s not a good start, either. It’s always worth repeating that net neutrality isn’t a “partisan” problem, it’s just framed that way by ISP lobbyists to sow division and stall progress on meaningful rules. It’s disingenuous to pretend this is an above-board effort to compromise when the bill’s real purpose is to prevent real rules from taking root. This is an AT&T and Comcast-backed policy play, and neither they nor their Congressional marionettes will allow changes to this legislation that could possibly prevent these companies from abusing the lack of broadband competition for further anti-competitive financial gain (the only thing this has ever been about).

Fortunately most net neutrality advocates in Congress seem to see these bills for what they are, and have steered clear. But as the telecom industry’s worries over losing in court grow, you’re going to see a growing drumbeat of farmed support for a “legislative compromise” that will be anything but. The best chance for restoring net neutrality rests with the courts. Failing that, it rests with voting out ISP lackeys in the midterms and thereafter, replacing them with lawmakers that actually respect the will of the public and the bipartisan quest for a healthy, competitive internet.

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Comments on “Terrified Of Losing In Court, ISPs (With Senator John Kennedy's Help) Push Hard For A Fake Net Neutrality Law”

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Rapnel (profile) says:

This can only escalate and get shittier and shittier for the connectees, actual people.

The level of pure, unadulterated asshatery is about one tick away from infuriating.

Only the purest of self-serving intentions can produce this level of fuckery.

As if the Internet provide only entertainment.

Utility. There is no other more accurate description or categorization applicable. Like, at all.

Appliances, meaning Twitter, Google or whatever are just that; a selection of end-user choices that can be selectively selected (emphasis on choices, like my selection of an electric coffee maker)

A blatant reach for a death-grip on controlling and molding development and progress – brought to all of us directly from the interests that want nothing more than a guaranteed bloated portion of your money.

spodula (profile) says:

“Failing that, it rests with voting out ISP lackeys in the midterms and thereafter, replacing them with lawmakers that actually respect the will of the public and the bipartisan quest for a healthy, competitive internet.”

The only problem with that is that while Net neutrality is not really a partisan thing, neither is the lawmakers taking money from the ISPs. They all do it.

anon a mouse that scurries in the dark (profile) says:

The root of the problem

The root of the problem is not bad legislation brought in by crooked politicians [redundant I know]

What needs to happen is that the instigators that reap to gain from this need to be brought out into the harsh light of public scrutiny, pilloried and then shipped off to South Africa to the mines to be hands on with the gold they so love.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, they're not going to "empt" Interstate Commerce!

“would pre-empt the 25 (and counting) state efforts” — That’ll be long fruitless court battles, so best for all if avoided. State efforts are just another attempt at subverting US Constitution in favor of corporations which YOU prefer, such as GOOGLE, and since this is Techdirt, there’s a pro-piracy angle too: of not limiting torrenting or other illegal streaming.

Subject line length again limited to a mere SIXTY-FOUR characters! HOPE you’re happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well, they're not going to "empt" Interstate Commerce!

You just can’t stand that no one agrees with you can you?

The states aren’t subverting the Constitution, heck it says anything not directly granted to the fed gov is reserved for the states. So, how about that?

There is nothing illegal about torrenting files. It’s only illegal if the files you’re torrenting are pirated. And that’s a pretty small percentage of all torrents. Because illegal and legal streaming both use the same network protocols, you can’t limit one without limiting the other. And that’s not acceptable. There are other solutions to deal with piracy. You just don’t like them because it means you were wrong and the legacy entertainment industry has to adapt to the 21st century.

Anonymous Coward says:

“If the Democrats are serious about this issue and finding a permanent solution, then they should come to the table and work with me and Rep. Blackburn on these bills. Does this bill resolve every issue in the net neutrality debate? No, it doesn’t. It’s not a silver bullet. But it’s a good start.”

Translation – We need to get this started ASAP so we can take bribes.. er , lobby money, before the election…. and so that we can say “we took care of NN” every time the public brings it up as an election issue. Can’t always depend on Cadet Bone Spurs to distract the suckers… er public

TruthHurts (profile) says:

I think I've figured it out...

The FBI director is borrowing a page from the cellular industry and their re-definition of the term “unlimited” to mean “all sorts of limits and restrictions”.

He’s redefining “strong encryption” and “security” to mean “weak encryption” and “insecurity”.

Just like the cellular industry, he’s just not telling us that that is what he is doing.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

All furniture is not a chair

AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and all the bad guys in this article are TELCOs and BROADBAND PROVIDERS. Calling them ISPs and then discussing the behavior of ISPs does a disservice to ISPs who are not telcos and broadband providers.

Those of us who work for ISPs are entirely FOR net neutrality, settlement-free peering, non-advantaged traffic, and making ALL of the Internet equally accessible to everyone.

If accuracy in reporting is a goal, may I respectfully suggest that while these companies are also ISPs, the behavior discussed is that of monopolistic or duopolistic telcos, and that would be a better term.



Anonymous Coward says:

Re: All furniture is not a chair

I understand, I really do, but they are still ISPs by dictionary definition. They are Internet Service Providers, regardless of what else they offer.

I could see the change to “big ISPs” or “some ISPs” but I don’t think it’s proper to not call them ISPs at all, especially when referring to that side of their business.

All furniture is not a chair, but all chairs are furniture.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: All furniture is not a chair

Pretty sure we all heard you the first three times.

What’s the line about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

All furniture is not a chair. But all chairs are furniture. It’s not inaccurate to use the word “furniture” to describe chairs, no matter how many times you complain about it.

If you don’t like that Techdirt describes a particular type of ISP as “ISPs”, you’re welcome to start your own blog and use whatever nomenclature you’d like. You’ve made your point. Clearly the stance among the writers here is that they do not agree with you about the importance of this particular semantic distinction. The stance among the commenters seems to be that we know perfectly well what Techdirt is referring to when it uses the term “ISP” in this specific context, and we don’t need you to explain it to us repeatedly.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Well, you're half right...

No, it doesn’t. It’s not a silver bullet. But it’s a good start."

Sure it is, the problem is the gun it’s being loaded into is aimed at the public. In one fell swoop it would do absolutely wonderful things to the industry you dishonestly claim you’re ‘standing up to’, so in that sense it is a ‘silver bullet’, the problem is that it’s only meant to benefit them, at the cost of the public.

‘His’ bill is a ‘good start’ in the same sense that lighting your house on fire is a ‘good start’ to redecorate the place.

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