House Dems Start To Wimp Out On Net Neutrality

from the ill-communication dept

Back in March we discussed the unveiling of the Save The Internet Act, a three page bill that would do one thing: restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules stripped away by Ajit Pai, as well as restore the FCC’s authority over broadband providers. As we’ve long noted, the net neutrality repeal didn’t just kill net neutrality, it gutted FCC authority over natural broadband monopolies, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC experts have repeatedly warned lacks the authority or resources to adequately police giants like Comcast (the entire, often missed point of the telecom industry’s lobbying gambit).

In April, the House passed the bill, though Senator Mitch McConnell stated the bill would be “dead on arrival” once it reached the Senate. McConnell was happy to ignore the fact that net neutrality protections have the bipartisan support of a majority of Americans, reiterating how so many tech policy decisions are inaccurately framed as partisan. Why? It helps encourage division and stall progress on any measures that challenge the revenues of the nation’s biggest (and least liked) companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter Spectrum).

Realizing that the chance of Senate passage is dwindling thanks to McConnell, numerous House Democrats have no started to slowly walk away from the Save The Internet Act, instead saying they want the creation of a “net neutrality working group” (read: try to create an entirely new bill that actually will pass):

“Around three dozen lawmakers are crafting a letter to send to the House?s Democratic leadership?including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)?expressing their desire for a working group to be formed in the wake of the Save the Internet Act not gaining traction in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill ?dead on arrival.?

The draft letter was signed by more than 30 Democrats in the House, and staffers for six lawmakers confirmed to the Daily Dot this week that their lawmakers signed it. The draft letter has not yet been delivered, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”

For those who haven’t followed the net neutrality fight closely, this might sound like a good idea. But the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules were already crafted after more than a decade of debate. They’re the result of years upon years of workshops, meetings, hearings, and previous, failed efforts (like the FCC’s flimsy 2010 rules). There’s also the fact that the bipartisan majority of the public wants these rules restored intact, and they have the support of every consumer group of note in the United States. A new working group would effectively be starting this entire process over.

The problem of course is that if McConnell’s senate won’t pass the Save The Internet Act, it’s equally unlikely it’s going to pass any new bill worth the time it takes to debate it. Any bill that does make it through the Senate and gains the support of telecom industry BFFs like Marsha Blackburn is going to be so watered down and filled with loopholes as to be useless. That’s of course been the goal of the telecom sector for a while: shovel some terrible net neutrality bill in name only that doesn’t fix the problem, but does pre-empt any tougher state or federal law from taking root.

It’s worth remembering that there’s currently a lawsuit against the FCC that should be ruled on any day now. If won, that lawsuit, filed by 23 State attorneys general, consumer groups, and companies like Mozilla, would fully restore the FCC’s 2015 rules (a major reason why telecom lobbyists are rushing toward new bills they’ll help write that would pre-empt alternative options).

If you’re a lawmaker genuinely interested in having tough net neutrality protections on the books, it makes far more sense to wait for the outcome of that case, and use Republican opposition to an idea with widespread bipartisan support as fodder in the 2020 elections. Then try again with a different array of lawmakers, some of whom, hopefully, are less prone to mindlessly kissing the ass of predatory telecom monopolies with thirty years of documented, anti-competitive behavior under their belts.

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Comments on “House Dems Start To Wimp Out On Net Neutrality”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sacrifice

Well, I mean, calling him out for selling out the american public would just be rude, and trying to pressure him to change his mind wouldn’t be very nice at all as it wouldn’t be respecting his position.

No no, better by far to toss the whole thing and work towards something that will get the McConnell stamp of approval, and if that requires throwing the people they are supposedly there to represent under the bus, well, that’s a cost they’re willing to (have others) pay.

Beech says:

Re: Re: Re: Sacrifice

The problem is that the only criteria for the McConnell seal of approval is if the Dems hate it. Once, as minority leader, there was a bill he was in favor of and the dems didnt like. He dared them to put it up for a vote. But, OH NO!, it turns out the dems were in favor of the bill too and had it put up for a vote that same day. Mitch immediately backtracked and tried to fillibuster the bill he himself had suggested bringing up for a vote.

The only thing dems can do now is reverse psychology. "Hey mitch, you better not pass any net neutrality bills! That would really make us cry, man"

Robert Beckman (profile) says:

“natural broadband monopolies”

They’re not “natural broadband monopolies”

They’re un-natural broadband monopolies. Google Fiber made that pretty clear.

Preempt the state laws creating the monopoly and all of these problems will be solved by the market (and probably a few anti-cartel prosecutions against Comcast and Verizon, then the others will fall into line).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: natural broadband monopolies

the myth of ‘natural monopoly’ is cornerstone justification for a big chunk of government regulation.
the left just cannot accept that corrupt government regulation created these broadband monopolies.
they see more-regulation as the only solution to regulatory-failure and regulatory-failure can only result from insufficient regulation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: natural broadband monopolies

Do you really want the "everybody hangs their own cable" (aka developing-country telephone-pole-with-wires-attached-willy-nilly) model for telecom competition? Because that’s what you get if you just let people have at this "telecoms" thing at-will…(never mind the necessity that is an effective regulator of radio-frequency spectrum usage, have you ever heard what RFI sounds like…?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: natural broadband monopolies

Do you really want American food stores, gas stations, Starbucks, hardware stores. car dealerships, etc built willy-nilly wherever private businessmen feel like building (?)
Think of all the vast duplication and waste in these things in your own city. but somehow it all works pretty well.

Name even one "natural monopoly" that successfully defeated all competition long term — due to "natural" economic conditions in its market segment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 natural broadband monopolies

Name even one "natural monopoly" that successfully defeated all competition long term

Electricity, water, piped gas supplies, roads, railways. Note they all have one thing in common, an extensive and expensive infrastructure to reach and serve their customers. Telecoms, at least at the level of infrastructure is a natural monopoly.

The reason some place have a duopoly for Internet is because there were two natural monopolies, phone and cable T.V. serving the area. Now that the technology has converged, and all services can be delivered over one infrastructure, copper phone line are being left to rot, so the the natural monopoly of a single infrastructure will be re-established.

Most of the rest of the world treat the telecoms Infrastructure as a regulated monopoly, and enables competition in providing services over that infrastructure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 natural monopolies

Nope. High infrastructure costs do not define "natural monopoly" even in its formal theory.

Think of the staggering physical infrastructure built by WalMart, McDonalds, Amazon, etc — but you can still buy same type stuff from numerous competitors large and small.

There is no historical evidence whatsoever that "Utilities" originated as a "natural monopoly" rather than normal market businesses.
Six electric supply companies were established in 1887 in New York City.
Forty-five electricity supply businesses existed 1907 Chicago.
Market competition was the norm for gas utilities.
Competition was especially heavy in the telephone industry … Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, among the larger cities, had at least two competing telephone services in 1905. (the Feds had not yet finalized the monopoly grant to AT&T). No signs of natural monopoly as America’s utility industry was born.

American roads and railways mostly arose as private enterprises with no monopoly power.
(Note for comparison that even today — most roads in Sweden and Finland are privately owned)

The "theory" of natural monopoly is an economic fiction. No such thing ever existed.
The history of the so-called public utility concept is that the in late 19th and early 20th century "utilities" competed vigorously and, but like all other industries, they did not like competition.
They first secured government-enforced monopolies, and then, with the help of a few Progressive economists, invented a phony economic rationalization for their monopoly power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 natural monopolies

Think of the staggering physical infrastructure built by WalMart, McDonalds, Amazon, etc — but you can still buy same type stuff from numerous competitors large and small.

Those are businesses where the customer goes to the business, physically or online. A competitor can set up in new premises, and attract customers away from existing business, although if the market is near saturation, small competitors will go out of business, like Amazon is destroying many smaller local shops.

Water, electricity, piped gas, roads, wired/cable/fibre communications are all businesses where the business install infrastructure up to and into their customers premises. Full competition would require that all providers can service every potential customer, which means duplicated infrastructure and increased costs per customer for the competitors. Those are conditions where any overlap of services end when one player gains market dominance. It is the reason that cable is beating out the phone system where there cable exists, it provides the phone, along with usually better TV and Internet service. There is also the problem of finding space to run in the infrastructure, while staying clear of existing infrastructure, and ensuring that access to the existing and new infrastructure is possible for repairs.

The breakup of AT&T did not eliminate the natural monopoly, it just replaced a single large monopoly with smaller more localized monopolies.

Mobile phone is an interesting case, but then it is not a service to a fixed location, and each service needs to cover most of a country to keep its customers.

American roads and railways mostly arose as private enterprises with no monopoly power.

And are dominantly monopolies in the areas that each serve. You may have a choice for some of a journey if you are travelling longer distances, but for most local journeys the route you use is determined by where you start and end your journey. That is a natural monopoly can be a local phenomenon, while the network may not be a single monopoly, but rather a collection of monopolies using common standards, and interconnection agreements.

That One Guy (profile) says:

No really, keep bending over, that's sure to work

If they weren’t so freakin gutless they’d push it through anyway and use the fact that it was shot down against those that voted against it. No bill that imposes meaningful restrictions on the ISP’s will be acceptable to those that they’ve bought, so trying to appease them by writing a watered down version is throwing the public straight to the wolves/ISP’s.

Alternatively several of those pushing for this bill could be in the pockets of of said ISP’s and have had their leashes yanked, such that this is just their excuse to waffle and delay until they can drop it/propose a loophole-ridden version and make their owners happy.

Honestly, there is no way that the politicians involved in this come out looking good, as they’re either gutless and/or corrupt.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: No really, keep bending over, that's sure to work

If they weren’t so freakin gutless they’d push it through anyway

They already did push it through – it passed the House. There is nothing House Democrats can do to get it through the Senate other than convincing McConnell to bring it to the floor and enough Republicans to vote for it. I doubt any amount of courage would suffice for that task.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Here's the knife, and I'll just turn around now shall I?'

There is nothing House Democrats can do to get it through the Senate other than convincing McConnell to bring it to the floor and enough Republicans to vote for it

Other than loudly and publicly calling out McConnell for sitting on the bill, and/or lambasting any politicians who vote against it if he does bring it to a vote? Rather than actually doing something productive, like trying to apply pressure to at least turn the bill into PR, they seem to have just given up and are pivoting to… maybe writing a useless watered down version that McConnell might not shoot down?

The very least they could do is make it cost him something for killing the thing on a whim, rather than just sheepishly shrugging it off with a ‘well, what can we do?’

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