House Attacks Net Neutrality, Cable Box Reform With Sneaky Budget Rider

from the dysfunction-junction dept

As we've noted a few times, there's really only two ways the telecom sector can successfully destroy U.S. net neutrality rules. Broadband providers could prevail on part or all of their multi-headed lawsuit against the FCC, a decision on which is expected any day now. Or the rules could be dismantled by the next President, who could repopulate the FCC with the usual assortment of revolving-door sector sycophants, reverting the agency back to its more consistent, historical role as a dumbly nodding enabler of broadband sector dysfunction.

Every other attempt to kill the rules is just politicians barking loudly for their campaign contribution dinners -- though that's not to say the barking doesn't get very loud from time to time.

The latest example is the House Appropriations Committee's 29-17 vote to approve an FCC appropriations bill (pdf), part of a larger Financial Services Bill determining the 2017 budgets for multiple agencies. The bill was passed last week with amendment language intended to hobble the FCC's net neutrality rules -- and its quest to bring competition to the cable set top box. More specifically, the bill prohibits the FCC from enforcing its net neutrality rules until the ongoing court case is settled. But it also would relegate the FCC's attempt to bring competition to the cable box to committee purgatory.

This attempt to force the FCC's cable box reform plan into a "study" that never ends -- despite an already scheduled extensive public comment period -- has been a constant drum beat among telecom lobbyists, who've masterfully enjoyed having a laundry list of Senators parrot their claims that cable set top box reform will somehow hurt consumer privacy, spike piracy rates, and even harm minorities. The real reason for the sector's opposition is the $21 billion in captive annual set top rental fees the cable sector enjoys, and the fact that more set top box competition means better, cheaper hardware that will highlight streaming alternatives to legacy television (the horror).

As is usually the case, politicians supporting the hamstringing of the FCC profess they're wasting taxpayer money and legislative time not because they're paid allies of the telecom duopolists, but because they're just breathlessly worried about the health of the nation. For example, Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, Florida Representative Ander Crenshaw, issued a statement making it abundantly clear he's not happy with a regulator actually doing its job:
"In addition, this Committee has strong concerns that the FCC seems to be prolonging their pattern of regulatory overreach with its recent set-top box proposal. And so, we include language that requires the FCC to stop and study this controversial rule before they can move any further. The telecommunications industry is more competitive than ever. And yet, the Commission has been more active than ever in trying to exert regulatory control over market innovation. To return the FCC’s focus towards mission critical work and away from politically charged rule makings, the bill requires the FCC to do less with less."
And by "mission critical work" Crenshaw means joining him in pretending that the broadband sector is actually competitive, and that forcing consumers to pay thousands of dollars for sub-standard, closed cable hardware is the pinnacle of innovation. Like past efforts of this type, the rider language won't make it very far, but it's always entertaining to see folks like Crenshaw dressing up cronyism as a noble assault on the very dysfunction he covertly enables.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 10:46am

    I wish more people in politics would publically call out fellow politicians for being full of shit.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      For that to happen would require there to be more politicians who aren't full of shit themselves.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:48am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, this in this way both parties are just two sides of the same coin. There really is not much of a difference between the two, especially not enough for the general left and right to be at each others throats.

        Both sides say shit they do not mean. The Democrats are never seriously about their social justice and the Republicans are never serious about shrinking government.

        They both get behind closed doors and talk about how to blow smoke up American asses as they sit back with a bag of pop corn and watch us writhe, kick, scream, and whine. I bet they are laughing all the way to the proverbial bank.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 10:47am

    "The telecommunications industry is more competitive than ever."

    I think I've got this figured out. The ISP's and this guy aren't lying. The market is competitive, it's just not the competition that we think. Instead of competing to gain customers from each other in the same market, these companies are competing to see who can squeeze the most money out their respective hostage monopolies. In that case, yes, the market is very competitive.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      I've long ago addressed the issue of the 'squeezing of your monopoly'. I dropped cable as well as TV. For a long time there were no commercials and then they got greedy for that advertising dollar and totally ruined PPV.

      I can't tell you how welcome the lack of annoying commercials being gone from this household is. Unless they do an Obamacare on PPV, it will never be in this household again.

      They've not only priced themselves out of a market, they've raced to reach the lowest common denominator in programming and it is an insult to most people to watch the present programming. I long ago relegated PPV to unwatchable and refuse to pay for substandard service and programs.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:50am

        Re: Re:

        OMG, former cable cutter here, loved every minute of it as well... but eventually the Wife says she has to have cable and my nuts are somewhere in her purse, have not found them yet, so what is a bro to do?

        Buy Cable!

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

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 13 Jun 2016 @ 10:55am

    "The telecommunications industry is more competitive than ever." Which is, I suppose, just another way of saying the telecommunications industry has never been competitive.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:00am

    while you keep electing politicians who are willing to accept 'encouragement' from various sources, in this case, the telecoms industries, instead of standing for the people, the ones who are supposedly being served, nothing is gonna change! get some fresh blood into politics instead of all the old farts who are there atm, all waiting to keel over through old age, without having to work for a living and maybe there'll be some serious advances. if not, put up with losing anything and everything that could actually make the USA a great nation again!

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

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:07am

    In the 2015-2016 election cycle, Anders Crenshaw has received $625 in small, direct donations and $773,000 in PAC contributions.

    It is disturbing to see how irrelevant individual contributors are to modern political campaigns.

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

  • identicon
    Nancy Says..., 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:11am

    Techdirt, you can't blame Congresspersons for this. They have to pass the bill to know what's in it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 11:56am

      Re:

      OMG, that bitch is a perfect example of a corrupt politician.

      The mere fact that she was not railroaded out of town by the entire senate makes it clear that two things are true.

      The Entire Legislative Branch is corrupt and the people that keep voting that bitch into power HATE America and want to see it die. But hell, we already know California hates America to begin with... no surprise there!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 1:05pm

    "...regulatory overreach..." - Ander Crenshaw

    What a dolt! I wonder how much he was paid for that statement.

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

  • identicon
    Justme, 13 Jun 2016 @ 4:25pm

    Perfect Example.

    Now lets be fair, doesn't anybody remember the good old days when you had to get your phone from Ma-Bell, can't you remember the wide selection of phones that they offered and at a price's to fit any budget(2.99 month).

    Allowing third party phone purchase's so obviously narrowed you choice's, destroyed competition, and slowed the pace of innovation, I mean really, cordless phone's, what a gimmick!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2016 @ 7:28pm

    I want overpriced broadband. I want slow speeds. I want a restrictive download cap. I want only one offering available.

    I'm a minority and these net neutrality rules harm me.

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


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