Tech Companies Urge Lawmakers To Stop Trying To Kill Net Neutrality With Sneaky Budget Bill Riders

from the sneaky-bastards dept

Since the FCC passed net neutrality rules last February, ISP allies in Congress have been working tirelessly to either gut the rules, or shame and defund the FCC so it can't enforce them. This has included an endless number of House "fact-finding" hearings that usually involve using discredited ISP data to claim the rules are demolishing the Internet. Of course the opposite appears to be true; network investment (at least in competitive areas) continues undaunted, and the rules have actually helped stop a lot of the anti-competitive shenanigans that were occurring on the streaming video front.

In addition to a parade of pointless, taxpayer-funded hearings, telecom's Congressional allies have spent months now trying to bury net neutrality rule-killing riders in an upcoming spending bill. The riders range in function from saddling the FCC with layers of often pointless new reporting requirements (out of a wink wink "love of transparency"), to prohibiting the FCC from enforcing the net neutrality rules until the telecom industry lawsuit is settled sometime next year.

And while all-too-many Silicon Valley companies and industry giants (**Google, cough**) remain mute and useless when it comes to publicly protecting net neutrality, a group of tech companies have written a letter to House and Senate leadership (pdf), urging them to keep their sneaky mouse print to themselves:
"We are writing to urge you to refrain from including riders relating to net neutrality and the Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Order in the upcoming omnibus spending legislation...Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee rushed to pass three net neutrality ­related riders, Sections 628­630. After the House’s action, several technology companies met with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to share how these riders are harmful to innovation and the thriving startup culture in the U.S."
The companies, which range from Kickstarter and Tumblr to Level 3 and Etsy, proceed to urge Congress to handle their grievances with net neutrality in "a more thoughtful and pragmatic approach, rather than in the often chaotic appropriations process." In other words, at least try to defeat net neutrality via the front door instead of sneaking around the back. The companies' pressure appears to have helped, as an updated version of the $1.1 trillion “omnibus” budget bill was tabled late in the week with all of the anti-neutrality language removed:
"After months of lobbying, Congress finally released its new budget proposal early Wednesday morning. The anti-net neutrality language does not appear in the 2009-page bill. A final vote is expected Friday, followed by President Obama’s signature..."This is a huge win,” Harold Feld, senior VP of DC-based advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Motherboard. “But the fight is not yet over until this is passed and signed.”
A total dismantling of net neutrality protections remains entirely possible; the most likely route to "victory" for net neutrality opponents is either by winning the industry lawsuit against the FCC, or by winning the 2016 elections and appointing a new FCC boss who'll immediately get to work gutting the rules.

Filed Under: congress, funding, net neutrality, omnibus, omnibus bill
Companies: etsy, kickstarter, tumblr


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 2:23pm

    Just wondering ... did members of Congress get to see this bill before the public did?

    Call me a tin-foil hatter, but just seems like the most controversial and far-reaching bills have a bad habit of always coming out around Christmas.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 16 Dec 2015 @ 3:25pm

    Better yet, get rid of sneaky bill riders as a concept. Of course, given the sneaky nature of all members of Congress...

    New Constitutional Amendment: You can't sit in the Congressional Roller Coaster unless your IQ is *THIS HIGH --> 80*. (Sorry, no more dumb "riders".)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      No, riders served a useful purpose...once.

      They were designed for minor changes to Acts of Law that had been passed before.

      Theyw ere not designed to put in abusive legal laws, but hey, it's all shiny when you add things like defunding entire agencies in "must-pass" Bills.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 3:44pm

    Do enough of these sneaky riders into bills handcuffing the tech side and I know an area that would love to have new tech start ups beginning in their countries. It seems Europeans missed out on the tech start ups and would love to have them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2015 @ 1:22am

    Now if only those same companies could take issue with CISA...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2015 @ 7:09am

    Just put the whole legislative system on github and be done with it.

    Congressman: "There should be no anononymity on the Internet, it is a threat to national security."

    Reporter: "What attribution of legislation?"

    Congressman: "Except that."

    There are dozens of free revision control systems out there. People in third world villages are using them. Dear Congress, please stop screwing around and just pick one, like everybody else does.

    Overturn Citizens United. Reinstate Glass Steagall. Bust the Trusts.

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 17 Dec 2015 @ 10:39am

    It's Fantasy but...

    The US Congress should take a page from the Canadian (British?) rules of order... a bill cannot contain random garbage for an unrelated topic. The bill to "Replace the Bridge in St. Louis" for example, cannot include a Net Neutrality proviso. Maybe congress should be forced to addres its issues one at a time instead of sneaking them into other bills.

    One day... in a galaxy far far away...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2015 @ 11:16am

      Re: It's Fantasy but...

      Uh, we have riders up here in Canada too. Check out our Cyberbulling Bill C-13 (http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=6830553)

      It 's like 10 pages on legislation about cyberbullying which is all already covered by current harassement laws and like 70+ pages on expanding police powers.

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


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