House Rushes To Gut FCC Authority To Prevent Inquiry Into Comcast Broadband Caps

from the protect-the-status-quo dept

Historically, the FCC has steered well clear of regulating broadband prices. Hell, for most of the last fifteen years the FCC hasn't even admitted that high prices due to limited competition are a problem, instead focusing on the politically sexier idea of ensuring uniform availability. The FCC certainly collects pricing data from broadband ISPs, but, at the industry's behest, never shares that data with the public. As a result, we get things like our $300 million national broadband map, which will happily show you (largely hallucinated) speed and competitive options in your neighborhood, but won't tell you how much they cost.

And while the FCC did move last year to expand its authority over broadband providers by reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has stated time and time again that the agency has no intention of regulating broadband rates, either in regards to last mile prices or peering and interconnection. But that doesn't mean the threat of broadband price regulations still can't be a useful bogeyman for opponents of net neutrality.

Still fuming from FCC "power grabs" like raising the broadband definition to 25 Mbps and passing relatively basic and loophole-filled net neutrality rules, the GOP is pushing yet another parade of legislation aimed at curtailing the FCC's authority over broadband providers. And while the legislation is being framed by House members (and ex-FCC members now lobbying for broadband providers) as a way to protect small ISPs from a power mad government intent on dictating sector prices, consumer advocate groups note that as worded, the proposals are largely about ensuring the FCC won't actually be able to do its job:
"The two broadband bills use incredibly broad language that endangers the ability of the FCC to protect consumers from fraudulent charges, threatens the ongoing effort to reform the Universal Service Fund to subsidize rural broadband, and potentially deprives millions of consumers of the right to know how their broadband providers make critical decisions about their broadband subscriptions," said Feld.
If you'd fallen asleep during the admittedly monotonous net neutrality debates after the rules were passed, all you really need to know is that net neutrality opponents in Congress have been trying desperately to punish the FCC for daring to stand up to industry incumbents like AT&T and Comcast. This has included an embarrassing parade of so-called fact finding hearings in which FCC boss Tom Wheeler was scolded repeatedly for challenging the broadband status quo. Burying neutrality and FCC authority killing measures in budget riders has also become a popular pastime.

It should be noted that the House's proposals are largely uncooked. Indeed the "No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act" (tabled by Representative Adam Kinzinger) only states this:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service."
Why this sudden focus on the menace that is "broadband rate regulation?" Because companies like Comcast continue to not only impose utterly unnecessary broadband caps and overage fees, but Comcast is now trying to run rough shod over net neutrality by exempting its own services from the usage caps. As the pressure mounts on the FCC to wake up and actually enforce the net neutrality rules the public forced it to adopt, loyal allies in Congress are doing their very best to pull the rug out from underneath the FCC.

The irony of course is that the FCC, regardless of what party is in control, has shown time, and time, and time again that it doesn't give two shits about the high cost of broadband. It by and large has also indicated that it thinks usage caps and zero rating proposals are innovative and nifty. The idea that the FCC is going to aggressively start engaging in broadband rate regulations (when it can't even admit high-pricing is a problem) is another straw man put forth by a Congress whose full-time job is to protect the broadband industry duopoly from the remotest possibility of public accountability.

Filed Under: broadband caps, congress, data caps, fcc
Companies: comcast


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  • icon
    PRMan (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 3:06pm

    And who are the sponsors of the bill?

    Missing the important information.

    Name and shame.

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

    • icon
      PRMan (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 3:07pm

      Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

      In fact, all Karl said was, "The GOP". I thought we didn't play partisan politics on this site...

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 3:24pm

        Re: Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

        Karl, all you've done here is further polarize an issue that needs none. Call people out specifically, attacking labels gets you nowhere fast.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 5:25am

      Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

      Sorry about that, quite honestly thought I'd plugged in a link. Added. It's the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act tabled by Representative Adam Kinzinger:

      https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2666/text

      The assault on net neutrality is however largely a GOP baby, though yes I've noted time and time again the fact this is even a partisan debate is idiotic.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 8:52am

      Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

      Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R] Representative from Illinois’s 16th District

      Cosponsors: Barton, Joe [R-TX6]

      Bilirakis, Gus [R-FL12]

      Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN7]

      Collins, Chris [R-NY27]

      Cramer, Kevin [R-ND0]

      Ellmers, Renee [R-NC2]

      Guthrie, Brett [R-KY2]

      Johnson, Bill [R-OH6]

      Lance, Leonard [R-NJ7]

      Latta, Robert [R-OH5]

      Long, Billy [R-MO7]

      Olson, Pete [R-TX22]

      Pompeo, Mike [R-KS4]

      Scalise, Steve [R-LA1]

      Shimkus, John [R-IL15]

      Upton, Fred [R-MI6]

      Walden, Greg [R-OR2]

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Jan 2016 @ 5:49am

        Re: Re: And who are the sponsors of the bill?

        Then it IS a GOP thing, unless some Dems have stepped in to sponsor it as well.

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

  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 4:06pm

    So this is why the FCC hasn't already jumped down T-Mobile's throat. They're treading a fine line. Push a little too hard in favor of the citizens and the House will come down on them like a ton of bricks.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 5:29am

      Re:

      Plus they're fighting to keep the rules alive in the courts, I imagine they're not keen to begin too many proceedings only to find the bedrock under their feet has turned to sand.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 4:36pm

    Every single person who is trying to fight the FCC on this should be named and every denizen of the Internet should actively vote against them every single time it's possible.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 5:25pm

    Contact your rep

    And let them know how you feel about the FCC's net neutrality regulations.

    I just emailed my rep to remind him that what the FCC is doing is important, and it should be encouraged, not hindered. Even though he's Republican, he tends to vote against party lines on stuff like this.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Whatever (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 5:30pm

    Karl, how much does John Eggerton pay you for the links? Seriously, broadcastingcable is a horrible site with popup ads on every page and the story has no real information that wouldn't be gained from linking to the original story, rather than a story about a story.

    Seems like you are good friends working to push an agenda with friendly links. Are you paid to help this guy?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 6:14pm

    You are not helping yourself or your message

    Karl,
    Would have loved to share this article with clients but I can't. Can you try writing something without foul language? If you kept the language professional the message will spread farther.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 8:02pm

      Re: You are not helping yourself or your message

      One thing Karl always talks about is the benefit of developing a formal, businesslike sterility with the widest consumer appeal possible, at the expense of an active and involved reader community.

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

      • icon
        Karl Bode (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 5:27am

        Re: Re: You are not helping yourself or your message

        "One thing Karl always talks about is the benefit of developing a formal, businesslike sterility with the widest consumer appeal possible, at the expense of an active and involved reader community."

        I do say this. ALL THE TIME. So true.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 6:04am

      Re: You are not helping yourself or your message

      The word shit is used once. Is that seriously going to upset your clients?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 6:31pm

    Have you looked at the recent indications of who is ahead in the political horserace and who is gaining or loosing ground?

    It is bills like this, actions like this clearly against the public, that are driving discontent at gridlock and such low ratings for congress.

    The rich are moaning and groaning over the money spent isn't buying the influence they thought it would as in past horseraces.

    Face it, the voters are tired of business as usual that ignores them in favor of the rich to influence politics. Motions like the one in this article are part of the driving force for who is going to be elected and who will not make the grade.

    On the face of it, I am tired of both party's games like the one demonstrated here. Evidently I'm not alone in this matter. Those gaining front runner status are not the big money picks.

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

    • icon
      Whatever (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 9:05pm

      Re:

      The public talks a good game, but when the chips are down, the keep re-electing the same collection of idiots to the congress, as if they will suddenly do something different.

      Trump and Sanders may lead, but as Obama has proven, being a popular President (at least at election) doesn't mean you hold much sway over the dinosaurs rumbling around the congress. The voters really love them dinos, and every 6 years or so they get together and give them a pat on the head and send them back to Washington to ignore the public some more.

      The game here isn't the one Karl thinks. It's not about cable companies buying votes (they can do that if they like), rather it's about the congress working to keep power for itself. They know that allowing an agency to essentially write the rules isn't in their interest.

      Don't attribute to bribery and payoofs what is more easily explained in simple terms of power and control for elected politicians. Self-justification and busy work are what keep them employed.

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

      • icon
        techflaws (profile), 12 Jan 2016 @ 9:50pm

        Re: Re:

        The public talks a good game, but when the chips are down, the keep re-electing the same collection of idiots to the congress, as if they will suddenly do something different.

        Which maybe, just maybe, is because they have as much choice when it comes to politics as they have with choosing their ISPs.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 7:16pm

    I am vet supporting the democratic socialist, been a republican all of my life. Up yours Uncle Sam.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 7:26pm

      Re:

      Make sure your eligible to vote in the primary because that's Sander's biggest hurdle. I know a lot of conservatives that support Sander's but without being registered as Democrat, they can't vote in the primary. I'm going to have to get them drunk first. It's still gonna hurt.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 12 Jan 2016 @ 7:31pm

    Misleading headline

    Should read...
    House gags on Comcast, aims to prevent inquiry.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 8:10pm

    And while the legislation is being framed by House members (and ex-FCC members now lobbying for broadband providers) as a way to protect small ISPs from a power mad government...
    Y'know what I'd like? I'd like like to see anyone in Congress name an ISP other than Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, or Cox.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 8:15pm

      Re:

      OK, forgot wireless, so add four of five of those. Although I've had Verizon & T-Mobile & never hit 25mb/s down. You get the point: have 'em name a broadband provider that couldn't afford to buy an aircraft carrier if it wanted to.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 8:12pm

    They want to keep getting those illegal bribes from Comcast. How better than to pervert the rights of their fellow citizens/serfs so that they don't get the same priviledges their ruling elite demands.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2016 @ 8:24pm

      Re:

      I think those bribes are about as 'illegal' as a woman wearing a purple dress riding sidesaddle on a horse on a Tuesday afternoon: probably on the books somewhere, but generally recognized as an humorous anachronistic vestigial organ*.

      _____
      * - Much like using an 'an' with an 'h' word. I'm frightfully sophisticated.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jan 2016 @ 12:03am

        Re: Re:

        It's incorrect to use "an" unless the "h" beginning the following word is silent... just sayin' ;-)
        "It's an honor." = good
        "It's an historic event." = bad
        "I'm opening an herb shop." = good (if you're American) + bad if you're not and pronounce the "h" in that word.
        :-)

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 2:37am

    How many of those that are up in arms against the FCC actually know how to use an e-mail? Honest question, really.

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

  • icon
    scatman09 (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 6:01am

    politicians for sale

    'get your fat, greedy politician'
    'get 'em while they're popular'
    'republican, democrat, libertarian, independent...we got 'em all'
    (morals not included)

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

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 6:01am

    The last thing big business wants is accountability. It's also the same thing politicians want as well.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 7:24am

    Journalist bait.

    This is an attempt by providers to change the public dialog from civil rights abuses to one of rate regulation in order to argue that the FCC is the one constraining trade.

    The right wing radio hosts will undoubtedly run with that bait. It is easier to sell "da gobberment is bad", than it is to explain how the Cable cabal are usurping civil rights by acting as independent agents of state.

    In regards to "ensuring uniform availability.", that would certainly be a failure on the part of the FCC. "Uniformity" isn't just about getting bandwidth, it is about getting _untampered_ with bandwidth.

    Packet queing techniques and mail delivery techniques are similar in their Constitutional application. If you are unwrapping mail in transit you are violating the 4th. If you are refusing transport of political speech you are violating the 1st. If you are refusing transport based on competitive business practice you are violating anti trust law.

    The Cable cabal commits these abuses EVERY DAY. Incidentally, it is likely that some of the complaining about data caps was false flag operation by the cabal itself in order to shift the debate onto pricing.

    Sorry TD. But we all get suckered every once in a while.

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

  • icon
    ThatDevilTech (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:49am

    As a Texan...

    Is it any surprise that the two Texas Reps are from Houston (22) and Dallas (6)? The two biggest metro areas in the state, and the two most likely to have Comcast or AT&T as the monopoly there?

    Not to me it's not.

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


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