This Bill Could Stop Protectionist State Broadband Laws, But ISP Control Over Congress Means It Won't Pass

from the get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dept

We've noted for years that one way incumbent broadband providers protect their duopoly kingdoms is by quite literally buying state laws that protect the status quo. These laws, passed in roughly twenty different states, prevent towns and cities from building their own broadband networks or in some instances from partnering with a private company like Google Fiber. Usually misleadingly presented by incumbent lobbyists and lawmakers as grounded in altruistic concern for taxpayer welfare, the laws are little more than pure protectionism designed to maintain the current level of broadband dysfunction -- for financial gain.

Earlier this year, the FCC tried to use its Congressional mandate under the Communications Act to eliminate the restrictive portions of these laws in two states. But the FCC's effort was shot down as an overreach by the courts earlier this month, and the FCC has stated it has no intention of continuing the fight. That leaves the hope of ending these protectionist laws either in the hands of voters (most of whom don't have the slightest idea what's happening) or Congress (most of whom don't want the telecom campaign contributions to stop flowing).

Undaunted, Representative Anna Eshoo this week introduced the Community Broadband Act of 2016 in the House, which is intended to be a companion bill to the existing bill of the same name already introduced in the Senate by Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden. Both bills would ban states from passing any law that prohibits a city, municipality or public utility from providing "advanced telecommunications capabilities" to state communities. In a statement, Eshoo expressed her displeasure at the ongoing efforts to thwart alternative broadband options:
"I’m disappointed that a recent court ruling blocked the FCC’s efforts to allow local communities to decide for themselves how best to ensure that their residents have broadband access,” Eshoo said. “This legislation clears the way for local communities to make their own decisions instead of powerful special interests in state capitals."

"Rather than restricting local communities in need of broadband, we should be empowering them to make the decisions they determine are in the best interests of their constituents. Too many Americans still lack access to quality, affordable broadband and community broadband projects are an important way to bring this critical service to more citizens."
Which is all true, though both bills have virtually no chance at passing. Incumbent ISPs have been very successful in paying lawmakers to argue that any attempt to eliminate these protectionist laws is an "assault on states' rights," as argued by the likes of Marsha Blackburn. Of absolutely no concern to these critics is the fact that large companies are writing and buying the passage of state laws that ensure many states remain broadband backwaters solely to protect incumbent ISP revenues.

On the bright side, the rise of alternative (though limited) options like Google Fiber -- and the FCC's fight -- have shined a very bright spotlight on a practice that has been ongoing for fifteen years with little to no public and press attention. As such, ISPs (and the politicians that love them) are having a much harder time than ever convincing locals that laws keeping them on expensive, sluggish broadband are in their collective best self-interest.

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  • identicon
    NVSQR, 15 Sep 2016 @ 10:49am

    Facebook and social media.
    send the word to everyone you know and have them send a reply to their congressmen and women. If we give the impression that if they don't pass it then they won't see any other kickbacks, then maybe they'll finally quit this bull

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 10:57am

    I suppose we should be thankful these traitorous congressmen and women only sell their position to domestic bribes and not foreign ones.

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

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 11:27am

    What about the county and townships rights trumping the state?

    Just re-word it so that it is specifically states that it is designed to remove State controls or limitations over local County, City, Town or Township community efforts.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:11pm

      Re: What about the county and townships rights trumping the state?

      Use their own arguments against them? I like it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:35pm

      Re: What about the county and townships rights trumping the state?

      This is my sovereign tree-fort! Stay out! No girls allowed!

      Also, I want fiber run to my tree-fort. Fort's rights, you blundering incorporated-jurisdiction bureaucrats!

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

  • icon
    clemahieu (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:31pm

    Lack of authority

    The US congress also has no authority to make limit state laws for things not written in to the constitution so even if it was passed, it would be challenged and likely struck down.

    Again, focusing on broadband laws at the state level will be a much better use of time because they're easier to pass and won't be struck down.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:38pm

      Re: Lack of authority

      Your last sentence cuts both ways. State laws are more easily written by corporation special interests, and bribes to state-legislators by entrenched incumbents is also much cheaper.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2016 @ 6:01am

      Re: Lack of authority

      they could argue that its affecting interstate commerce. That is the trump card they have.
      Fun fact: sale of marijuana was regulated by the feds using this argument before nation wide bans popped up.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:40pm

    ISP Control Over Congress? Of the people, by the people, for the people, in Switzerland.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 1:54pm

    Congress...

    The opposite of all progress.

    And we keep asking these asses to add more regulation... WHY?

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

    • icon
      Adrian Cochrane (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Congress...

      Yes, we're asking them to regulate regulations. Should help reduce the harm of those regulations.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 2:22pm

        Re: Re: Congress...

        But what about the regulations to regulate the regulations? Or the regulations to regulate the regulations that are regulating regulations?

        Where does it end?!

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 15 Sep 2016 @ 2:09pm

    It will pass

    Easiest way to make this bill ass is to include it with another must pass bill. For example the Congress can't ever get in trouble law. Or the Hillary is a calculated vindictive woman who can do what she wants law.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 3:14pm

    so how about trying the 'Name them and Shame them' list of those who receive their 'bribes' (i mean 'campaign contributions), from ISPs like Verizon? perhaps just printing a list in the paper and displaying on the media will then wake up the public to what is going on? add in what the entertainment industries are doing their damnedest to the Internet and what deals like TPP is going to do to every ordinary person and maybe there will be some changes brought about?

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

  • identicon
    Andy, 16 Sep 2016 @ 3:43am

    Bribes and more bribes, but leaglised by the people accepting the bribes.

    Wow it is amazing that people actually allow these bribes to determine the quality of there broadband, But in the end they will lose out when other states start taking there jobs and the brain drain of people moving states to those that have decent broadband so they can create there start-up companies in friendly states. We can already see major problems for states that have enacted some stupid laws just becasue they are beign paid to do so, and sadly they are not even being paid much. If the people got together and bribed there politicians and council members they could ensure they had a good base for business to move in and for them to grow and have more taxes to improve the peoples lifestyles, maybe ensuring roads and bridges are fixed and dams are not at risk of collapsing. Shame on them and i hope the citizens unite and demand that the bribes for laws stops right now, but i doubt it, Americans seem to live in there own dream world where they refuse to improve there lives and prefer to support big business even if everything big business does is corrupt and full of lies.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Sep 2016 @ 7:32am

      Re: Bribes and more bribes, but leaglised by the people accepting the bribes.

      This is because they believe that the free market will correct itself. Erm, no.

      The market ain't free and it can't be freed up by allowing corporate and government bad actors to continue to collude against us. Big business can actually be a force for good, but only when it's kept in check by regulations that enforce the right of other entities to compete with them. After that, if excellence creates a natural monopoly, I'm not bothered.

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


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