Democrats “Strategically” Push Net Neutrality Bill That Won’t Pass And Won’t Be Noticed In The Summer Heat

from the performative,-not-practical dept

Democrats have a “strategy” they really love to employ that involves pushing bills they know will never pass. The idea is that while the bill may not pass, it will bring extra attention to whatever issue they’re pushing, and force the GOP to put their opposition to (policy X) on the record, shaming them publicly.

Of course, neither usually happens. The press can barely be bothered to cover new laws, especially if they deal with complicated policy. And the modern Trump GOP doesn’t really feel shame for corrupt, dumb, or otherwise terrible policy choices. Being shameless and ignorant has kind of become the entire brand.

But the Democrats persist, often using decades old strategies (hey, want to sign this petition?) to push doomed legislation in a futile bid to shame the shameless. This strategy was again on stark display with Senators Markey and Wyden’s release of a new net neutrality bill this week.

The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act is a simple, two-page bill that would once again reclassify broadband as an essential service under Title II of the Communications Act, restoring the FCC consumer protection authority removed during the controversial 2017 Trump FCC repeal. The bill doesn’t itself restore net neutrality; it punts that obligation to the FCC which is under no obligation to follow through.

The bill itself is a great idea. It codifies FCC Title II authority into clear law, putting to rest the regulatory tug of war that occurs on telecom policy every time the parties change power. We’ve noted repeatedly how the repeal was a corruption-fueled mess, utilizing all manner of complete bullshit and fraud, to do something Comcast wanted but a vast, bipartisan majority of the public opposed.

The bill not only killed popular net neutrality rules, it gutted much of the FCC’s consumer protection authority, punting most remaining authority to an over-extended, less telecom savvy FTC that lacks the authority to police the sector (the whole reason Comcast and AT&T wanted it). It even tried to ban states from protecting broadband consumers, though the courts haven’t looked kindly on that part.

The repeal was a giant gift to telecom monopolies, who prefer their regulators slack jawed and lobotomized as they price gouge American consumers stuck in highly uncompetitive markets. And despite a contingent of ignorant pundits who claim the repeal didn’t matter because the Internet didn’t immediately explode, this kind of blatant corruption matters.

Look At Us, We’re Doin’ Stuff

The problem, there’s no indication any political dynamics have changed since Senator Kyrsten Sinema and numerous key senators scuttled the last attempt to restore the rules in 2019 using the Congressional Review Act. It’s unlikely to pass. It may not even come to a vote. Markey’s office wouldn’t comment when asked about their strategy to actually obtain the needed votes.

It’s also the middle of summer, so the bill announcement dropped with a bit of a thud, undermining the whole “raising awareness” objective. Net neutrality, while important, has bored the public and press to tears. They signed their petitions, they called their lawmakers, they even protested for 15 years, and the net result was jack shit. It’s been five years since the repeal, and nothing meaningful has really changed in terms of actually fixing the problem.

The other problem: even if the bill passes, the FCC can’t really implement and enforce the new law. It currently sits gridlocked at 2-2 commissioners thanks to the GOP’s and telecom industry’s protracted attack on belated Biden nominee Gigi Sohn, whose confirmation vote has been all but scuttled. This is all thanks to a coordinated propaganda campaign accusing her of hating cops, rural America, and puppies.

I’m told by some folks in activist circles that the Biden administration’s belated, nine-month late nomination of Sohn has screwed up a lot of policy timing. The nomination was purportedly belated because they (absurdly) thought the appointment of a popular, competent reformer would create controversy as they tried to float the infrastructure bill.

But the delay then gave the telecom sector and GOP time to galvanize opposition to Sohn, which includes Joe Manchin. And it punted numerous other proposals from the net neutrality bill to the equally performative ban on broadband caps into the summer, where folks would be less likely to notice them.

I’ve heard repeatedly that Sohn has received virtually no strategic or messaging support from the Biden administration as she faces down a parade of criticism concocted by AT&T and Rupert Murdoch, who don’t want her implementing media and telecom reform of any kind. She’s also received virtually no support from her potential future colleagues at the FCC.

She’s received some support from consumer groups and lawmakers in the form of an occasional op-ed nobody actually will read, petition campaign nobody signed, or throwaway comment during an interview, but nothing you’d call particularly revolutionary or effective in the modern, controversy-obsessed media environment. Most left wing tech and telecom activism remains stuck somewhere in 2004.

Getting Sohn appointed to the FCC before the summer recess should have taken messaging priority over absolutely everything. Including press events for doomed bills unveiled when everybody was at the beach. Like the GOP, there should have been an absolutely relentless drumbeat of creative criticism about the corruption currently blocking Sohn’s nomination across the entirety of social media.

There were certainly some unavoidable obstacles to Sohn’s nomination vote (one key lawmaker had a stroke, for example), but should Sohn’s nomination be scuttled (and it’s looking likely), the failure to message effectively and whip up the votes is an historic strategic failure that won’t soon be forgotten.

Not A Complete Waste Of Calories

So is the bill totally pointless? No. Activists tell me that there’s been a lot of turnover at many Senate offices, so pushing the bill can be a learning experience for new staff. The fight over net neutrality is really a fight against monopolization and consolidation, and for competent, adult oversight of a very broken business sector. As such, it’s a fight that’s not going away anytime soon.

It’s also arguable that some, muted awareness is better than no awareness at all. Keeping net neutrality in the headlines (though at this writing, only a handful of outlets could even be bothered to cover the bill’s unveiling) still serves a function. Especially in the “big tech” era, where telecom policy conversations have been deemed decidedly unsexy by the policy discourse gods.

And finally, the bill advertises that some lawmakers still care about issues like telecom consumer protection ahead of the midterms, even if they’re too powerless or strategically incompetent to do anything meaningful about it. That’s not exactly impressive, but it’s also not nothing.

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Comments on “Democrats “Strategically” Push Net Neutrality Bill That Won’t Pass And Won’t Be Noticed In The Summer Heat”

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ben says:

I’m not even sure it even does that it says.
it’s a literal 20 line bill that tries to add a definition of broadband to a telecommunication service. which is all fine and dandy, but may not still circumvent the Chevron deference that gave us BrandX and this whole crapshow.

Worse, the bill defines it as “the offering of broadband internet service” so if it doesn’t meet the current 25/3 (or the proposed 100/25) definition of “broadband” then no net neutrality for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

(a who the hell is trying to bring it in?

(b what is/are those doing so gonna gain from it?

if there’s no point in it, why try to do it? sooner or later, the people will find out who was involved and what they wanted in return. if it’s in the hope of Democrats continuing to govern, they need to do a much better job over this issue!!

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: 100%?

Yes, the Democrats have the Presidency and a majority of the House. However, with a 50/50 split in the Senate, two Democratic Senators who often don’t vote with the party, and 60 votes necessary to defeat a filibuster, they don’t have full control of Congress. Also, the Supreme Court is split 6-3 in favor of conservative justices.

Out of the three branches, that gives the Democrat party about 50% control. That’s quite a bit down from your “100% of the power” wouldn’t you agree?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But THIS time when we shame them it will work, ignore the last 3000 times this has failed.

I might have been a teenage boy once, trying to shame me about masturbation to get me to stop didn’t work out that well.

How the fuck are these the best and brightest we could elect?
Waiting for decorum to win the day lead us to a fucking insurrection, perhaps its time to stop pretending they give a shit about anything other than winning.
You can’t shame them, there is no decorum, stop being polite and call them out strongly over their bullshit, fight lies with fact, demand they follow the rules, & punish them when they refuse.

Anonymous Coward says:


Anything the Democrats want to do is stymied by the Senate and the filibuster and Manchema. So, Democrats are passing bills in the house that the public wants, and making Republicans vote against them. Then, they can point to those votes and maybe win a majority of the Senate and maybe actually get something done. I am sick of people blaming the Democrats because the Republican boat anchor keeps us from moving anywhere. See: Green Lanternism

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When has this ever worked?

We have people reelecting Mitch DESPITE the fact he has made their lives way worse than they need to be.
They aren’t going to change their minds because he once again voted against some “Democrats Fantasy Law”, because they trust Mitch more.

You want to screw them?
Single issue laws, no pork, no extra bullshit.
Law does X and only X.
No 40,000 long ass stupid things no one can read.
Even the most simple of voters can then see for themselves there isn’t secret hidden pork or handouts and can ask why the fsck are you against this Mitchie?

They have pressers where they talk about how unfortunate it is that once again they didn’t allow it to pass or come up for a vote & never once ask why they seem to hate America by doing this.

A man with a semiautomatic weapon shot up a pizza place “to save kids” based on LIES that members of Congress repeated and are still repeating to this day. When might they call those people out rather than give yet another wishy washy presser about decorum and how it will win the day.

Its not Green Lanternism to want them to try something else after they have failed time & time & time again to move anything. This is not working, lets do it again is the stupidest thing.

Please stop subverting our democracy, Please stop subverting our democracy, Please stop subverting our democracy, Please stop subverting our democracy, we’ll ask them again, Please stop subverting our democracy. Rather than put a spotlight on it, call it out, and expose the fscking lies.

Gee Mitch, why do all of these proposed changes only affect black voters?
Do you have something against black people?
Are you afraid of a fair election & losing?
Can you show us any examples of the wide ranging voter fraud you talk about?
Are you just using racist tropes to appeal to the worst in people?
Who do you represent, because it can’t be your district that you’ve actively harmed the entire time you’ve been in office?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Bit too late to actually shame them; they don’t have any left.

The FBI seems unwilling to investigate Jan 6 properly, and the committee tasked to look into that is probably gonna get fucked sideways before long.

And it looks like Putin’s and Xi’s orange dog is gonna try to get reelected to power.

And if the Dems don’t want to actually confront the Republican threats to American National Security, where does that leave us?

Yes, this includes the rest of the world.

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