Wyden, Other Senators Warn That Net Neutrality Repeal Will Make SOPA Backlash Look Like A Fireside Snuggle

from the put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is dept

We've repeatedly noted how for some stupid reason, net neutrality is treated as a partisan issue in Washington -- with Democrats (generally) in support, and Republicans (generally) opposing the idea. It's an absurd, myopic paradigm given the fact that net neutrality has broad, bipartisan consumer support. Most people want the internet to function as a relatively-level playing field. Everybody wants to be able to access the content and services of their choice without interference from the likes of Comcast and AT&T, who seem hell bent on using their monopoly over the last mile to their anti-competitive advantage.

With the looming specter of a net neutrality rule repeal under Trump, the GOP, and new FCC Boss Ajit Pai, a number of Democratic Senators (including Ron Wyden and Ed Markey) held a press event (video) warning that if the GOP and FCC try to repeal net neutrality, it will result in a "political firestorm" they may not be entirely prepared for. The Senators were quick to recall that roughly 4 million consumers reached out in support of the FCC's net neutrality rules a few years ago, a number Markey proclaimed would look "miniscule" in comparison to the looming backlash against the rules' repeal.

Markey's office also issued a statement saying that he'd fight tooth and nail against repeal of the rules, in whatever form that arrives:

"Despite what the cable companies and Republicans say about net neutrality, there is nothing broken that needs fixing,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I will oppose any regulatory efforts, including repeal, forbearance, interpretative rule, or refusal to enforce existing rules, as well as any legislative efforts to undo or roll back the Open Internet Order. We stand united in this fight to ensure that all Americans have access to a free and open Internet."

While it's true that the backlash to an attack on net neutrality could make SOPA and PIPA look like a beach-side picnic, the repeal won't arrive in the way the agency's rules first arrived. With the process of repealing the rules within the FCC's existing regulatory framework a giant bureaucratic headache that would require another very public comment process, the ISPs (and the politicians that love them) likely have another tactic in mind -- at least based on my 20 years, ten hours a day, of watching the telecom sector (and every other industry) dominate both parties of Congress.

At first, that will involve having Pai simply refuse to enforce the rules as they exist now (which we already saw with Pai's decision to scrap the FCC's zero rating inquiry). Pai's job in this stage play will be to pay empty lip service to things like the digital divide, while generally keeping the FCC focused on bland, non-controversial policies until the real hangman (a campaign-contribution soaked Congress) arrives.

From there, the GOP has quietly been making it clear they want to push a Communications Act rewrite that will focus on rolling back the FCC's classification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II, therefore obliterating not only net neutrality -- but the FCC's ability to act as broadband watchdog entirely. This being a new, charming post-truth era, this assault on net neutrality, broadband provider oversight and accountability will most likely be dressed up as a massive boon to job creation, broadband expansion, and the nation's puppies.

Expect it to be named something along the lines of The Making Broadband Great Again Act of 2017.

This bill, whether it comes as a Communications Act rewrite or some other bill, will also probably claim to put the net neutrality debate to bed by including a few net neutrality restrictions even large ISPs don't actually care about (like banning them from outright blocking websites). What it won't do is address any of the hot-button areas where the net neutrality debate is occurring right now, like zero rating, interconnection, or the use of usage caps and overage fees. Given it will certainly be written in part by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter lawyers, it will just as certainly contain other loopholes to ensure their satisfaction.

Whatever this bill winds up looking like or is called, it will be (and already is on some fronts), portrayed as a "compromise" that Democrats will be told they must support if they're to be considered "serious" in their pledge to protect net neutrality and the public at large. But given the goal of removing oversight from the likes of Comcast, the bill itself will likely hurt more than it helps, and if these Democratic Senators actually want to show they have anything resembling a spine, they'll need to stage fierce opposition to the bill to prove their dedication to a healthy internet is more than just smoke and mirrors.

In light of a Congress that long ago made it clear that it prioritizes telecom cash contributions over consumers, the best "solution" for net neutrality at this juncture would be leaving the existing rules -- and the FCC's authority over broadband providers -- intact.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 2:59pm

    We don't have Net Neutrality NOW. So clearly the rules have not been doing anything. When these company's can stream their own content and not count against you like everyone else, that's ignoring Net Neutrality and everyone already is getting away with it.

    How much is it really going to change?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:10pm

    And is evedyone in the US so stupid that they havent realised yet tbat all Trump wants to do is screw the people in favour of helping business make even more profit? Get a grip for gods sake! Hes gonna make the country even more of a few wjth evedything and 99% with fu k all, including no privacy and no freedom!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:37pm

    I say don't worry about it

    Let them kill net neutrality. Let them exercise monopoly control and exact monopoly rents from the general public. By the time the Powers That Are notice, they'll just slap a #BlameObama hashtag on it and tell us it's a beautiful, perfect, yugest thing and that we're "special snowflakes" for bitching about it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:41pm

    They don't have to repeal it.

    They can just not enforce it. Same effect, less trouble.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:45pm

    Follow the Money

    Not that I expect that it will ever happen, but doesn't Congress control the purse strings? What would happen if they actually de-funded the White House? Target those things that would cause the President pain, until that entity actually started to follow his oath.

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

    From Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:05pm

      Re: Follow the Money

      I probably should add that this is more than 140 characters, so even though he said it, it just might be beyond his comprehension. Or so beyond his ideology that he feels righteous in ignoring it.

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

    • identicon
      Unanimous Cow Herd, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:53pm

      Re: Follow the Money

      You're following the wrong money. The issue splits with congressmen isn't largely based on ideology, but to allegiances usually purchased in the form of contributions to campaigns or "foundations". Fact is, some of our money ends up in the USF which is essentially us paying for the lines to be maintained, upgraded, etc. All the Ma Bell's to be are enjoying their slice of that pie and the pieces are getting bigger as we move towards a monopoly.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:15pm

        Re: Re: Follow the Money

        Oh, I do understand.

        My thought about impinging the White House budget is about a strategy for 'killing' (metaphorically, not literally) the head so as to allow the body to wither. It would be better still if money were removed from politics altogether. But, baby steps. And not likely with this administration. Congress a couple of years from now might be a different story, though unlikely due to political parties and their various nefarious intents, and that their elections are purchased rather than earned for integrity to a particular cause or causes. Speak to the masses with what they want to hear, get the money to speak to more than the opponent by secretly promising to support XXX.

        That the FTC has miserably failed in their responsibility under several administrations is the shame that will enable the singularity monopoly to exist. And take all that USF money to the bottom line, since they won't spend it on what they are supposed to spend it on.

        Think about that black hole. One service provider, dictating what they will or won't do with the government kowtowing. The entropy being anyone who wants some kind of service, being sucked into...

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Follow the Money

      Trump still has veto power.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 11:09pm

    The net has grown incredibly quickly without any such regulations. Is history wrong?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 1:39am


      If you're referring to net neutrality regulations, the regulations are there to *protect* what was there before, not to create something new. Without such regulations, the neutrality that allowed the growth you refer to will be no more. That's the problem.

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

  • identicon
    Robert, 10 Feb 2017 @ 2:33am

    Numbers of Businesses

    Net neutrality favours 99.99% of business, big, small and anywhere in-between. Killing net neutrality favours 0.01% of businesses. Favouring that tiny minority of the voting power of the majority, political suicide.

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

  • identicon
    peter, 10 Feb 2017 @ 3:19am

    Its true!

    "...and the nation's puppies."

    He didnt mention kittens. See! Proof that Mike hates kittens.

    (I would also mention that this is proof that Mike is a shill for the Democrats or Republicans, but I dont know enough about American politics to know who to choose)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 4:43am

    We could have had worse. We could have had Hillary as President, and then ended up with TPP coming into force.

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

    • identicon
      Maurice Hilarius, 11 Feb 2017 @ 8:20am

      Re: We could have had worse

      Keep telling yourself that.

      Far easier than admitting to yourself that you just voted for the effective end of the society that you spent your whole life in.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 2:05am

        Re: Re: We could have had worse

        I've been saying this for a while, but it's telling how Trump fans never seem to be able to justify or defend his actions. They can only try to divert attention to somebody else. It's getting very desperate, since now they're reduced to trying to deflect from his very real actions to a fantasy version of what they think his former opponent might have done.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:50am

    There will be no fight if net neutrality is removed.

    Thanks to zero rating, companies like Netflix, Facebook, and others have already paid their dues to keep their services from being controlled.

    Oddly enough, it was these companies which helped get SOPA defeated by simply preventing access to their services and replacing their default home page with contact information of their government.

    It's extremely unlikely this will happen again.

    If companies were smart, they'd use this tactic to their advantage, say to remove an idiotic executive order written by an idiot?

    The way to make America great again is through education, something we've sorely lacked for over 30 years.

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

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:51am

    oopsies. Forgot to log in before posting.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 12:12pm

    Lets see....

    HOW to protest..
    How many people can take off 1 month at work..
    How many times can you Cross the nation to DO IT..
    Do you want to take the KIDS WITH YOU??
    Cost of:
    Living, Camping, Parking, Tim eoff work, Child sitter,
    Washington DC isnt the SLUM it was Supposed to be..

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 12:19pm


    Lets do this right...

    These folks keep running Rough shod over Civilian Wants/needs and regulations that were INSTALLED for a reason...

    Lets change things..

    TIME for a VOTE from the Citizens..
    $40,000 per year
    T&A system IN PLACE...(time and attendance)

    The Job USED to be Honorable and only paid travel and living Expenses.. AND DC wasnt to BAD to live around..(they DIDNT have HOMES in DC)
    They VOTED their OWN wages, and increases and the LAND VALUE ion DC AREA, is over the TOP..EXCEPT where all the SERVICE WORKERS LIVE..
    If you get enough VOTES in STATE, they HAVE TO CHANGE IT..
    IF we get enough NATIONALLY...WE WIN..

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

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