House Passes Bill Attempting To Gut Net Neutrality, Supporters Declare The Internet Saved

from the up-is-down dept

As we've been discussing, the House has been pushing a new bill dubbed the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act" (pdf). As the name implies, the bill is being framed as a way to keep an "out of control" government from imposing new price caps on broadband, not coincidentally as the broadband industry increasingly eyes usage caps and overages to take advantage of a lack of sector competition. The bill has numerous problems, not least of which being that a special definition of "rate regulation" included in the bill would effectively prevent the FCC from doing, well, anything.

Of course despite these problems the House has passed the measure 241 to 173, with folks like Marsha Blackburn insisting she's saved the day:
"We all know that what they'd like to do is regulate the Internet so they can tax the Internet, so they could then come in and set all the rates," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn."
With most people still not really even understanding what the Internet is, House supporters of the bill have great success in framing net neutrality as an attempt to tax the Internet. The primary pusher of the bill, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, proudly proclaimed at his website that the net neutrality-killing bill would actually foster greater innovation and "better services" for consumers:
"Since its inception, the Internet has been free from rate regulation and has thrived under that model. Both Chairman Wheeler and President Obama assured Congress and the public that any regulations that were adopted under the open Internet order would refrain from allowing the federal government to regulate rates of broadband Internet access. H.R. 2666 codifies both the President’s and Chairman Wheelers’ past promises and will allow innovative companies to do what they do best: create new products and better services to benefit consumers."
Of course by gutting FCC authority over an un-competitive broadband market you'd obviously be doing the exact opposite, though given that AT&T is a top Kizinger donor, he's apparently willing to overlook any concerns on that front. Fortunately the White House has stated it intends to veto this latest bill should it wind its way through the Senate, making the effort an entirely empty gesture -- outside of it being a public oath of fealty to telecom campaign contributors.

As the EFF is quick to note, those who thought the neutrality fight was over last February when the FCC voted to approve the rules need to realize it's going to take constant fighting and public attention to keep those rules in place. The Presidential election and the ongoing industry lawsuits against the FCC remain the biggest threat to the rules, though no limit of bills continue to be introduced that aim to cut neutrality off at the knees, usually under the guise of trying to save the Internet from "Internet populists" and a power-mad FCC.

Filed Under: congress, fcc, marsha blackburn, net neutrality, rate regulation, title ii


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:13pm

    So they are saving the Internet as a distribution network for big content.

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

  • icon
    Charles (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:13pm

    Thanks, for the article, Karl.

    To find out how your Rep. voted, go to
    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/114-2016/h152

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      Two against and one for. Not bad - I expected worse. Naturally, it came down to party lines - the two against were D, and the one for was R.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 7:05am

        Re: Re:

        10 against, 7 for, split along party lines.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 19 Apr 2016 @ 3:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Two against and one for.

        Only one of those people actually represents you.

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

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 20 Apr 2016 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          To be pedantic, NONE of them represent ME. The guys I voted for didn't win.

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 20 Apr 2016 @ 3:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            To be pedantic, NONE of them represent ME. The guys I voted for didn't win.

            To be even more pedantic, that isn't how our system works. Your representative represents you in Congress, whether you voted for that person or not, or indeed whether you agree with him or her about anything at all. Your opinion of the adequacy of that representation is a different matter.

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

            • icon
              JoeCool (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:33pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              To be even more even more pedantic, these days your representative doesn't represent you even if you voted for them. They represent whoever pays them the most.
              :)

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

              • icon
                nasch (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:46pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                To be even more even more pedantic, these days your representative doesn't represent you even if you voted for them. They represent whoever pays them the most.

                You win!

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

                • icon
                  JoeCool (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 10:59pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Sadly, that doesn't make me happy. So if you actually have a representative that represents you (the people), REJOICE! There are far too many that don't. I'm not looking forward to the upcoming presidential election.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:46pm

      Re:

      Sadly, my rep voted for. I was a little surprised since he has a record of occasionally voting against the party line.

      I did email him a week ago, and never got a response - which I suppose was indicative, as he usually sends out a response when I email him about legislation, letting me know his opinion. In this case, the silence was probably an indicator that he had no opinion and planned on simply voting with all the other Republicans.

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

    • identicon
      kallethen, 19 Apr 2016 @ 5:54am

      Re:

      Doesn't surprise me that this vote was 100% completely down to the party lines. No R's voted against, no D's voted for.

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

    • icon
      Killer_Tofu (profile), 19 Apr 2016 @ 12:55pm

      Re:

      Sort of funny that for my state (MI) all of the Dems voted No and all of the Repubs voted Aye.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:22pm

    "You're not allowed to do that, that's MY job!"

    "We all know that what they'd like to do is regulate the Internet so they can tax the Internet, so they could then come in and set all the rates," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn."

    Which is completely different, somehow, from the cable companies in effective if not actual monopoly positions around the country making 'Take it or leave it' offers to the people in those areas.

    Cable companies 'set all the rates'? Market working as intended, no problem.

    FCC stepping in to 'set all the rates' by keeping said companies from screwing over their customers too much, or simply threatening intervention if they go too overboard? Massive abuse of power that must be stopped.

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

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:31pm

    Ohh, I get it...

    Rep. Blackburn of Tennessee..., oh, yes, of course! That's the state that keeps the Internet free by outlawing municipal broadband. Natch. It's important to protect jobs, especially those of the cable lobbyists who feather Representatives' nests.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:37pm

    No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act sponsored by AT&T

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:46pm

    What planet is Texas on?

    Really Marsha, where is the documentation that says anything at all like your statements? We know about Texas taxing internet sales, she must be assuming everyone else is as well.

    Oh well, Texan lawyers, judges and politicians tend towards hyperbole and outright lies.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 2:47pm

    More and more I understand every day that the real crooks are in Washington. To quote Will Rogers:

    This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 3:32pm

    Dial-up speed over a fiber-optic line, that is where our household is headed. I said no way to the telecoms, I can say no to the Internet Service Providers as well.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 4:35pm

      Re:

      I said no way to the telecoms, I can say no to the Internet Service Providers as well.

      That's it! We're going off the grid!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 4:59pm

        Re: Re:

        "That's it! We're going off the grid!"

        Then where are you going to get your porn?

        "That's it! We're going back on the grid!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 3:42pm

    No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act

    NRRBIAA

    Why all evil things have to end with AA?

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

  • identicon
    Shilling, 18 Apr 2016 @ 4:06pm

    How can they frame net neutrality as taxing the internet.

    Customer point of view.
    No competition=higher prices=more profit for isp's=more taxes go to the government=taxing the internet.

    Business point of view.
    Paying for your content to use no data from data cap=more profit for ISP's=more taxes go to the government=taxing the internet.

    Regulating to allow for competition/net neutrality.
    Cheaper plans for customers. Lesser profits for ISP's. Less taxes for the government.

    Logic and politics don't go well together I guess.

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

    • icon
      Whatever (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      "How can they frame net neutrality as taxing the internet.
      "

      They comes around because of a very simple premise,one that has occurred over and over again in the history of the US. A new industry comes along, the government first "regulates" it, and then over time the regulated industry becomes subject to taxes, a new source of revenue for the financially strapped government.

      Regulation is almost a requirement for taxation. Regulation defines an industry or group which is subject to the regulation, and in turn, the people hwo create taxes use the regulated group to define who is subject to the new tax.

      As an example, it would be possible for the feds to pass in the next budget cycle a law that says "all Title II internet companies must pay a $5 per user tax". It would be a simple grab, clear and simple, and would be easy to implement because the group is already defined.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 5:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Oh - that explains it .... (looks at floor, shakes head)

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 6:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Given the alternative of no regulation, or no enforced regulation, I think it's worth the risk. While the FCC might decide down the road to throw in a 'per user tax'(not likely, but it might happen I suppose), as has been amply demonstrated without outside pressure to curb their greed, or at least the more blatant examples of it the cable companies will do that and more simply because they can.

        Buy a law or two to make sure that no competition can set up in an area, allowing you to charge whatever you want because those in the area have no other choice?

        Introduce completely unnecessary caps and then charge people to go over them, again because there's no other alternative?

        An FCC that does more than sit around and make 'Tut tut' noises when the cable companies get too greedy in screwing over the public might cause some problems down the road if the FCC gets a little 'over-enthusiastic', but given the alternative I'd say it's still the better option.

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

        • icon
          Whatever (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 9:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "While the FCC might decide down the road to throw in a 'per user tax"

          it's not the FCC that would impose any tax - it would be congress. As a method to raise 100 million a year, a $5 per internet connection tax would be a great way to make them pay. Making it apply to "title II internet providers" is key.

          A few years later, raise it to $10... then $20, then $5 a month... why not? You can see it as a perfect slippery slope. Taxing the internet is a politician's wet dream!

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 6:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            ISPs and pretty much any internet business should be taxed ... just like any other business. No more no less. They shouldn't have to pay any special taxes but they shouldn't have any special tax exemptions either.

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 19 Apr 2016 @ 3:48pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            A few years later, raise it to $10... then $20, then $5 [sic] a month... why not?

            For the same reason they don't raise gas taxes by $1 a gallon every year. It would be incredibly unpopular.

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

      • identicon
        Shilling, 18 Apr 2016 @ 10:36pm

        Re: Re:

        My whole point was that not regulating net neutrality is already a tax on the internet as companies have to pay ISP's for their content to not be restricted on their networks. Earning these ISP's more profits which means more profit tax for the government.

        Same with competitionreducing laws. Less competition means ISP's can charge more for what they offer. Resulting in more profits which can be taxed.its just as much a money grab from politicians as from the isp's.

        As far as I know the FCC can only regulate and not introduce a tax per connection. That is the job for congress. So I do not understand your comparison.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 4:57pm

    "Fortunately the White House has stated"

    That could be a trick to reduce public opposition until the bill reaches the white house. By then it will be too late and the president could sign it.

    Plus who knows what the next president will do.

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

  • icon
    freakanatcha (profile), 18 Apr 2016 @ 6:34pm

    Net neutrality

    I'm a U.S. Congressman and have a tough election coming up. I called the Comcast lobbyist and they put me on hold for an hour. Finally, they said the lobbyist would bring me my cash tomorrow sometime between 8 and noon.

    Well, its 2pm and I've waited around all day and the Comcast lobbyist still hasn't shown up with my money!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 5:22am

      Re: Net neutrality

      Remember that time Boner was distributing checks from the tobacco industry, on the congressional floor, during the vote on whether or not to do away with tobacco subsidies?

      Yeah, its another one to never forget.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2016 @ 7:40pm

    Why does the free market loving Republican party oppose net neutrality so much? It's almost as if their supposed core beliefs are nothing but a stack of lies covering their more obvious fealty to selfishness and entrenched power.

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 19 Apr 2016 @ 5:18am

    It always amazes me that Marsha Blackburn can say anything with AT&T's c*ck so firmly planted in her mouth at all times.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 6:23am

    Broadband != Internet

    "Internet" is based on actual standards. "Broadband" is just another B.S. marketing term. The FCC defines "broadband" and regulates it, so that congress can say it doesn't regulate "Internet" access.

    If the carriers don't get broken up, (content||carrier), eventually Congress is going to find a lie that works, and the grenade will go off before the sane among us can put the pin back in.

    At that point, there will be no Internet in the United States. Just a bunch of corporate subscriber networks. The communications sector growth will stunt. The carriers will constrain new communications technologies by increasing filter depth at the network edges. They will do this because it is cheaper to deny service and increase prices, than it is to keep up with progress in a competitive market.

    This is already happening to some extent. More invasive network management practices have been progressively increasing at a snails pace for years. Unsophisticated users just don't notice the water rising.

    Content or Carrier. Pick ONE. There is no middle ground here. For there to be a middle ground would require a fundamental re-engineering of the protocol stack, and that would mean changing out half the equipment in the network.

    Typically the engineering staff at the corresponding companies WOULD do that. They change this gear out all the time anyway. So making the network more free and more equitable isn't really much more work.

    But at the political layer it isn't about civic duty or good engineering. It is about what percentage of the domestic population is owned by which corporate Barons. Note that this isn't growth, but relative growth. Break the carriers up (content||carrier) and there will be another tech boom within 2 years.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 7:13am

    So these worthless lawmakeres accept bribe money from the lobbyist to write this crap- but no worries if it gets rejected because they will just waist more time working off their dept.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 19 Apr 2016 @ 3:51pm

      Re:

      This is actually ideal for the telecom backed reps. They can prove to the donors that they tried, and then ask for more campaign contributions to bring up another bill next session.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2016 @ 2:52pm

    *Scratches head*

    How remarkable. It's very rare to see governments taxing because of consumer friendly regulations, like net neutrality.

    Still, I've seen lots of taxation related to business friendly regulations. From copying levies, to taxes on internet to pay for TV or other works non related to the internet.

    Strangely, most of those taxes are copyright related.


    Would be interesting to see the reps gutting copyright laws because they can be used to tax the free internet too.

    Not that it will happen...

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


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