Neutrality Opponents Hope To Use Bickering Congress To Thwart FCC Neutrality Rules

from the dysfunction-junction dept

When ISPs responded to President Obama's belated support of Title II based neutrality rules, one of the key refrains was that the FCC was a bunch of "unelected representatives" and we really should rely on a bickering, divided Congress to solve net neutrality for us. AT&T, for example, proclaimed it would sue over FCC Title II rules and that protecting consumers is a decision "more properly made by the Congress." Comcast similarly agreed, insisting that such a "radical reversal of consistent contrary precedent should be taken up by the Congress." Obviously it's not Democracy these companies are interested in as much as it is the knowledge they have the majority of Congress comfortably tucked away in their back pockets.

And indeed, right on schedule, campaign cash hungry politicians are stumbling over themselves to please AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- and are looking for any and every Congressional option to prevent the FCC from imposing real neutrality rules. Senator John Thune is among several lawmakers looking for a "legislative fix" to hamstring the FCC. Rep. Bob Goodlatte is similarly looking to craft rules that hinder the FCC's ability to act. Other politicians are looking to curtail the FCC's already dwindling funding.

As we've long noted, the fact that neutrality is now seen as a partisan issue is ridiculous, as all neutrality supporters are looking for is are rules that protect consumers and keep the Internet healthy, something that benefits everyone. Still, the GOP specifically has been pushing for the last year to rewrite The Communications Act (mostly to the benefit of the AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and MPAA's of the world), and that effort is now going to be used to fight a very vocal proxy war against the FCC and Title II neutrality rules:
"House Republicans have spent more than a year reviewing possible changes to the Communications Act, which was last updated in the mid-1990s, and the new Senate GOP majority is expected to begin a similar process in 2015. Already, there are signs the party is eager to transform the debate into a proxy war over net neutrality.

"Each time it has tried to regulate the Internet, the FCC has been overruled by the courts because existing telecommunications laws were written decades ago for a completely different era," the Thune spokeswoman said. “The most straightforward approach would be for Congress to update and modernize those laws to take into account technological transformations while not discouraging the private-sector investment and innovation that is critical for consumers and our nation’s modern economy."
Of course what Thune means when he says "modernized" is a new Communications Act that strips away the lion's share of dwindling regulatory authority and lets the incumbent ISPs run amok in the uncompetitive broadband playground previous ISP-lobbyist-written laws helped create. The same folks who insist they're only looking out for the health of the market are the same individuals willfully oblivious to the lack of health in the uncompetitive broadband market, or the fact that letting lumbering duopolists literally write telecom law might not be the healthiest option when it comes to giving innovators or healthy markets a leg up.

For a moment there it looked like neutrality supporters had all of the momentum in getting tougher rules passed, resulting in a SOPA-esque groundswell of support for Title II protections. While Wheeler's certainly justified in taking time to get the rules right -- his delays are opening the window to a million and one legislative, political and public relations efforts to neuter his agency before his rules (whether that's hybrid or pure Title II) even get their grand unveiling. The next FCC meeting isn't until January 29, 2015, and it's possible that Wheeler's proposal may not see the light of day until March.

Until then, we'll get to enjoy a shitshow where the big ISPs pay friends in Congress to push draft legislative "fixes" written by ISP lobbyists under the pretense they're engaged in a noble battle against the menace of government over-reach. In reality for many neutrality opponents in Congress it's simply about protecting the duopoly stranglehold on uncompetitive markets, and the ability to use that stranglehold to develop new and creative ways to raise rates and thwart competitors. Of course Presidential veto and partisan bickering mean none of these efforts are likely to get very far, and this may just be an instance where the inability of Congress to actually accomplish anything of worth may wind up helping consumers.

Filed Under: communications act, congress, fcc, john thune, net neutrality, open internet, telecommunications act
Companies: at&t, comcast, verizon


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Until then, we'll get to enjoy a shitshow where the big ISPs pay friends in Congress to push draft legislative "fixes" written by ISP lobbyists under the pretense they're engaged in a noble battle against the menace of government over-reach.

    So.... business as usual then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:19pm

    They'll end up getting rid of the FCC altogether and replace it contractors from with in the industry, All in the name of smaller government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:32pm

    When it comes to keeping the government's hands off of things, let's start with the people who can do the most damage, aka the ones who accept money for favors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeDetroit (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:32pm

    They don't even try to pretend anymore

    Politicians don't even bother to pretend they represent their constituents anymore. Maybe Dems try to make noises that they do but then they don't. This country is being run by mega multinational corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:36pm

    this may just be an instance where the inability of Congress to actually accomplish anything of worth may wind up helping consumers.
    In other words, checks and balances working as designed.

    Legislative gridlock is a design feature of the system, not a bug. It has unfortunate consequences in some cases, but it is meant to block anything from being done where agreement (and preferably consensus) cannot be reached.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2014 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      Whoa whoa whoa...

      yes legislative gridlock is a benefit... that most fail to recognize, but you will find there is a lot less of it than you think.

      when it comes to removing freedom and giving their business donors the good stuff you will find that both parties are the same. The repukes have fooled the conservatives into thinking that this is a good thing, while the demtards fool their liberals by saying one thing yet doing what the repukes had the brass to say in the beginning, while putting lipstick on a pig har har.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 1:01pm

    Working as designed?

    You know, I almost have to wonder if this is actually what Wheeler planned. Make some noise about re-classification to get some attention and PR, but then proceed to drag his feet constantly, until the panic caused among the ISP's gets them to crack the whip on their employees in congress, and they pass one or several laws the ISP's craft taking away his ability to actually do anything.

    At which point he adopts a sad, 'Well, I tried' face, and moves into working directly for the ISP's, like his predecessor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2014 @ 7:15pm

      Re: Working as designed?

      Its a great way to drum up or (solicit) campaign contributions.

      You will find a lot of politicians that finally "get it" after having a nice sit down and discussing thing with the "lobbyists" and finally understanding it all.

      This behavior and all of those pork spending bills are literally tools to get "opposition" to vote for something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MM_Dandy (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 3:25pm

    Not so very long ago...

    ...government regulation helped bring electricity and the POTS to rural communities and farms in places like Jones County, SD, where Thune spent his formative years. Thune has made most of his political hay claiming to represent the rural citizens of SD; appearing at farm shows, pointing to his ranch-land upbringing, and so on. He ought to know better than to dismiss regulation out of hand.

    Still, South Dakota has been very 'company friendly' more recently, for better or worse. Hopefully, though, he can be convinced that this is one of those 'for worse' cases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 3:55pm

    Comcast seems to think FCC should mean Federal Comcast Control. Or maybe Federal Comcast Corporation?

    And we can rename the Communications Act to Comcast Act while we are at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bengie, 29 Dec 2014 @ 5:09pm

    Satisfaction

    They should just pass a law that companies with "low" customer satisfaction are not allowed to lobby or get government support or eligible for government grants or tax breaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    legalcon (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 6:58pm

    useful idiots

    Right, EVERYONE wants FCC control over the internet. Obviously, there is no objection to the government regulating where there isn't even a clear problem, let alone one that won't work itself out on its own.

    One has to wonder why we've suffered without regulation for this long! Oh, the depravity of unregulated internet!

    Do you people hear yourselves?

    It's one thing to make your argument and debate; quite another to deny there's any reasonable opposition at all.

    Ultimately, as with so many other regulations, the benevolent regulators and their infinite wisdom will only end up serving the biggest corporations. Barriers to entry are raised and innovation is stifled as newcomers get shutdown for failure to ask permission before introducing new technologies or new services. This is why opposition from ISPs is lukewarm, at best. You are their useful idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      surfer (profile), 29 Dec 2014 @ 8:05pm

      Re: useful idiots

      you don't get it, this is systemic..

      when was the last time Congress actually passed a law with the people in mind, even legalization of marijuana is $$$ motivated, and convenient to those with greed, and power to enact bought, paid and written laws.

      your country is now an international joke.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 30 Dec 2014 @ 10:07am

      Re: useful idiots

      Ultimately, as with so many other regulations, the benevolent regulators and their infinite wisdom will only end up serving the biggest corporations.

      Are you saying that isn't how it is now, but Title II reclassification will make it that way? Not sure what your point is other than you hate the FCC.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 31 Dec 2014 @ 4:40am

      Re: useful idiots

      Obviously, there is no objection to the government regulating where there isn't even a clear problem, let alone one that won't work itself out on its own.

      You mean like how it's been 'working itself out' for the past good number of years, as the ISP's grow bigger and bigger, and put the screws to their customers more and more to squeeze out every last cent, sure in the knowledge that for the vast majority of their 'customers', they have no choice but to take it, because there is no other option?

      One has to wonder why we've suffered without regulation for this long! Oh, the depravity of unregulated internet!

      Okay, so you don't want regulation? Alright, deal, Title II is off the table, the ISP's no longer have to worry about it, or any other regulations.

      Of course, in exchange, there will be a few additional things that will be removed.

      For example, no more tax breaks or subsidies for them. No more special treatment when installing their lines. No more use of public spectrum. Every law written by, or for, the major ISP's will be stricken from the books(something that I imagine will be a cause of great joy to those towns/cities/ISP's that were previously barred from offering service in an area).

      No government interference, means no government assistance, they don't want to deal with any strings, then they don't get to enjoy what those strings were attached to.

      Sound like a good deal to you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 5 Jan 2015 @ 5:55am

        Re: Re: useful idiots

        No government interference, means no government assistance

        Ah, so corporations would finally receive "people" status!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rudyard Holmbast, 29 Dec 2014 @ 8:22pm

    And here we go with more "no one who opposes so-called neutrality laws can possibly do so in good faith" bullshit that is now becoming THE trademark of this site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 30 Dec 2014 @ 10:06am

      Re:

      And here we go with more "no one who opposes so-called neutrality laws can possibly do so in good faith" bullshit

      This isn't about just anybody opposing NN, it's about ISPs. And they're certainly not doing it in good faith.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 31 Dec 2014 @ 4:48am

        Re: Re:

        I am shocked, shocked I say, that you could possibly insinuate that they have anything but the best interest of their customers in mind, in every action that they do!

        Truly, the ones in charge of the major ISP's get up every morning with one thought, and one thought alone in their minds, 'How can I boost customer satisfaction and improve service to my customers, while offering them the cheapest possible rates?'.

        Why, if a customer ever received anything but perfectly stellar service from them, they will quickly spring into action, and move heaven and earth to make things right for their customers!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 31 Dec 2014 @ 7:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Truly, the ones in charge of the major ISP's get up every morning with one thought, and one thought alone in their minds, 'How can I boost customer satisfaction and improve service to my customers, while offering them the cheapest possible rates?'.

          Then they laugh and laugh and laugh, while lovingly stroking their cash safe.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2014 @ 3:44pm

    All the public has going for it, is that the 2016 elections aren't far off. Nothing like pissing off the public before elections!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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