Senator Thune Begins Pushing A 'Net Neutrality' Bill That's Likely To Kill Net Neutrality

from the with-friends-like-these dept

While Trump, the GOP and new FCC boss Ajit Pai really want to kill net neutrality protections for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, it likely won't happen at the FCC. As it stands, rolling back the rules via the same FCC process that birthed them would require showing the courts that things have dramatically changed since the FCC's major court win last year. Such a process would also involve another lengthy public comment period, during which the record-setting four million public comments filed during the rule creation could appear diminutive.

So if you're an ISP lobbyist looking to kill net neutrality rules, how do you accomplish this without causing a massive public shitstorm? Why you table ghost write (corrected, thanks commenters) a bill that pretends to save and protect net neutrality, while wording it to do the exact opposite, of course!

It's widely believed that the GOP intends to table a net neutrality bill sometime this year, either as a standalone bill or part of a Communications Act rewrite (with a heavy emphasis on killing the FCC's consumer-protection authority). The man likely to lead that effort is Senator John Thune, who last week took to the op-ed pages of Ars Technica to begin making his public case for such a proposal. Thune begins his sales pitch with, unfortunately, a lie:

"I am quite confident that the online experience for the overwhelming majority of users has not really changed for better or worse because of the new regulations. The Internet’s future, however, is uncertain because of ideological bureaucrats at the FCC who adopted a misguided regulatory approach that has chilled investment and offers no protections against excessive bureaucratic interference in the years ahead.

...These regulations are already having a negative impact on Internet infrastructure. While not a problem in places like Silicon Valley or New York City, 34 million Americans today lack access to broadband services at home, and there is evidence that the FCC’s onerous regulations have chilled the capital investments that are needed to deploy broadband throughout the country."

As we just got done saying, the claim that net neutrality "chilled investment" simply isn't true, no matter how many times large ISPs (and the politicians that love them) claim otherwise. Data showing growing CAPEX and earnings are all public, so it's not really particularly debatable (The Consumerist just got done doing a fantastic job once again debunking this canard). After starting with a repeatedly-debunked lie, Thune proceeds to his real goal, selling people on the idea of a new net neutrality law built by Congress:

"While the FCC’s 2015 rules may soon be consigned to the dustbin of history, the last few months have shown us all that political winds can and often do shift suddenly. The only way to truly provide certainty for open Internet protections is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation. Rather than heavy-handed and open-ended regulations that stifle the Internet, we need a statute offering clear and enduring rules that balance innovation and investment for all parts of the Internet ecosystem."

So yes... in a perfect world, Congress would simply pass a net neutrality bill and enshrine the concept into law, avoiding the partisan pattycake that plagues the FCC with every administrative shift. But this world not being ideal, and one where companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have incredible power over lawmakers, the chance of Congress passing useful net neutrality protections is virtually non-existent. Thune, as a major recipient of telecom industry cash, of course knows this. But Thune dismisses this reality to insist he's nobly prepared to spearhead a legislative effort to save neutrality once and for all:

"The certainty of bipartisan law transcends administrations. Over the past few months, many of my Democrat colleagues have grown to appreciate this more. Regardless of what happens at the FCC with the 2015 rules, I again stand ready to work on legislation protecting the open Internet that sets forth clear digital rules of the road for both the Internet community and government regulators."

You shouldn't buy it. Thune previously tried to kill the FCC's tougher rules with a similar proposal last year -- one that professed to "enshrine net neutrality into law," but which was so intentionally saddled with loopholes as to be useless. In fact such proposals are worse than useless in that they pre-empt the existing, more effective rules, cover only some net neutrality violations (outright blocking of entire websites, something no ISP intends or wants to do anyway), while ignoring the myriad of fronts where the real neutrality fights are happening now (zero rating, interconnection, usage caps and overage fees).

The plan is to introduce a new net neutrality law that kills net neutrality while professing to save it. When lawmakers point out that the bill does more harm than good, they'll likely be derided for refusing to "compromise." Granted with the ACA and other Congressional kerfuffles currently taking priority, this bill may take some time before large ISP lobbyists and lawmakers can finally table such legislation. But those of you that care about net neutrality need to understand one thing: net neutrality's death will come disguised as a 2017 bill pretending to save it. Likely with Thune leading the parade.


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 2:26am

    Table

    British English - to table something means to place it on the table to be acted upon.

    US English - to table something means to take it off the table so it will not be acted on.

    Please use disambiguated words so your article makes sense both on the meaningful side of the pond, and the other one. (Choose your side and this sentence still works).

    E

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

    • icon
      Cdaragorn (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:42am

      Re: Table

      Human language is by definition ambiguous. It is unfortunate, but you can't get away from it.
      Under most circumstances the ambiguity is not enough to cause that much confusion, but unfortunately sometimes the reader will have to put forth some effort to interpret based on the context.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:00am

        Re: Re: Table

        "Human language is by definition ambiguous."

        Not quite right. It CAN be ambiguous, but is damn sure is not by definition.

        Politicians & Lawyers just write laws that way to sucker people into thinking they did something good for you while actually not.

        Kinda like the whole history of the FCC. They helped create this problem but you sycophant keep running to the FCC like they are the blessed God of net neutrality or something.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:01am

        Re: Re: Table

        I do see the problem here, though, as the implications are completely opposed to each other. It's not like working out if the person referring to a thong is talking about a sandal or a swimsuit, it can get totally confusing if you're familiar with the opposing definition to the one being used.

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

      • identicon
        Thad, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:17am

        Re: Re: Table

        Human language is by definition ambiguous.

        And terms of art, by definition, are specific and clearly defined.

        We are talking about a bill in the US Senate. In the US Senate, to table means to remove from consideration, which is the opposite meaning of Karl's usage in TFA. Karl's usage isn't just ambiguous; in this context it's wrong.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:46am

      Re: Table

      Pfffft! Learn to Speak Merikan!!!

      Thanks Ed... without you I would have never known the difference.

      Seriously?

      Now I am off to get British car sites to stop calling the hood a bonnet.

      And for the love of G why oh why do you call french fries chips? Let's stop that k? K. The only chip that matters is a Merikan greasy potato chip. And the silicone kind, but you cant eat them.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 9 Mar 2017 @ 2:09am

        Re: Re: Table

        Irish fish 'n' chips for the win, liberally sprinkled with salt and vinegar.

        What you Americans call "chips" we call "crisps," because they're, like, crispy.

        I particularly like the cheese and onion variety.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 9:05am

      Re: Table

      No, "to table" means the same in both. "To shelve" is what most people mean in the US when they say "table." It's being used wrong. It's the same when people say "pushed back" for some event that was moved to a later date. It doesn't mean that. They are just idiots.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 9:06am

      Re: Table

      Noted and corrected, thanks. That's amazing I've always assumed to table meant the exact opposite of what it means in the Senate. Appreciate the correction.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 5:33am

    Rather than heavy-handed and open-ended regulations that stifle the Internet, we need a statute offering clear and enduring rules that balance innovation and investment for all parts of the Internet ecosystem.

    I think this is the biggest part of the problem right here. Senator Thune is conflating "the Internet" with "Internet service providers." Given their long history of abusive behavior, yes, we absolutely do want to "stifle" them as much as possible, for the good of the (actual) Internet!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:54am

      Re:

      He is being assisted by the content Industry, which includes many ISP's, who want to regain control over the publication of content. Ever noticed hw ZERO rating preferentially favors the publishers of content, and not the creators who use the Likes of YouTube, Vimeo and Jamendo etc.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 6:41am

    Don't forget the last word....

    Internet: Damage Detected. Re-routing.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:45am

      Re: Don't forget the last word....

      Just how do you route round data-caps, which will be the main tool used to allow ISP's to decide which high traffic services you can use.? Dial up on Fido net just will not cut it, and besides which will only be used by nerds and activists.

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

      • identicon
        Michael, 7 Mar 2017 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re: Don't forget the last word....

        You innovate into a competing space.

        Low-orbit routers, mesh networks, transmit internet via ground water...something is eventually going to gain traction.

        The telco-monopolies will, at some point, end up raising prices to the point that something else will be profitable.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 9:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget the last word....

          High bandwidth traffic needs fast wired, or cable, or some other 'pipe, where many pipes can run in the same ducts, or over the same poles and use the same frequencies. The Internet also needs massive bandwidth over long geographical distance, and obstructions such as mountains and oceans, and this is expensive.

          Satellite technology suffers from both frequency congestion, and latency issues, which is why the telecoms industry has gone with undersea cables and fibrin links, which probably cost more that satellites to install and maintain.

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

          • identicon
            Michael, 8 Mar 2017 @ 6:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't forget the last word....

            "High bandwidth traffic needs fast wired, or cable, or some other 'pipe"

            Today.

            And actually, not really even today. I used to work at a place that had a laser-optical connection between two offices about 1/4 mile apart. There was an array on the top of each building and the connection was as fast as having run a fiber cable.

            Oddly, the decision had been made to go this route because the local cable provider would not run fiber between the two locations without a charge that was almost twice what the laser system cost.

            That's the kind of thing likely to kill the telco monopolies. Another "fringe" technology will come along but we prohibitively expensive, but the price of the technology will drop while they continue to raise their prices and eventually it will be cheaper and easier to switch to something new.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 5:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't forget the last word....

              What you are considering to be high bandwidth is a paltry single fibres worth of data, from a bundle of a thousand or more fibres that would fit throgh the receivers lenses.

              Also, linking two building for internal traffic is not the same as linking you and your neighbors to the Internet, where you need access to the backbone infrastructure, where that much higher data density of a fibre bundle becomes very useful.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:14am

    This will impact Internet giants such as Netflix, Google, Facebook and others. The question is, do they want to shell out the extra money for the fast lanes since they already are at the top and it would only screw new entrants? And even if they remain silent, what will happen when the ISPs have an even more perfect monopoly and start skyrocketing these 'fast lane' rates?

    I don't know, if I were the big Internet companies I'd be adding another zero to my lobbying gun against this shit.

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

  • icon
    tom (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:14am

    The real danger is most of these Congress Critters have little clue what 'Net Neutrality' means. Many think it refers to regulating ISP prices or build out practices. Others think it has something to do with cyber security, another thing most are clueless on. So they will vote how some lobbyist paid staffer tells them to vote or they will trade a yes vote on this for an IOU from the bill's supporters.

    For an interesting insight into the realities of Congress, watch the movie "Charlie Wilson's War."

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:39am

      Re:

      There's been a lot of FUD on this issue. Plenty of times, I've had to correct people on the nature of it - that it's about protecting the way the internet has always worked, not about introducing a new way of working. People have been fooled into thinking that the rules are being put into place to change the internet, not to protect it from fundamental change. So, they oppose the protections they want while defending the changes they oppose.

      There's the problem - it's been bad enough to confuse people on tech forums who can debate openly. Now, imagine how skewed the view of a congressman is going to be when all he has is the views of industry lobbyists.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:24am

    If you want to help protect NN and privacy rules you should support groups like ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press who are fighting to keep Net Neutrality and privacy rules.

    https://www.aclu.org/

    https://www.eff.org/

    https://www.freepress.net/

    also you can set them as your charity on https://smile.amazon.com/

    also write to your House Representative and senators

    http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

    https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information /senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state

    and the FCC

    https://www.fcc.gov/about/contact

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

  • identicon
    Sasparilla, 7 Mar 2017 @ 7:50am

    The comments on original article are great

    Those comments in the original Ars article are great...nobody was fooled by Sen Thune's doing the bidding of the wired and wireless lobbies (neither of which like/want Network Neutrality).

    Sad our "Democracy" is so openly corrupt. If enough voter & Press attention gets focused on this (prior to voting) it could get killed (about the only thing that causes legislators to legislate in the interest of the average American these days).

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

    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 7 Mar 2017 @ 9:55am

      Re: The comments on original article are great

      If the press does report on the facts of the NN debate, it will be decried by our current leaders as "Fake News!"

      Sad. Terrible ratings.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 9:09am

    Net Neutrality in a nutshell:

    NN: "Fraud and extortion are bad, mmkay?"
    ISPs and those they pay: "Nuh-uh."

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2017 @ 5:49pm

    We have a wide variety of bundles to choose from,
    pick a bundle - surf with ease.

    http://i.imgur.com/5RrWm.png

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


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