Marsha Blackburn Wants ISPs To Sell 'Fast Lanes' Like 'TSA Pre-Check'

from the this-is-why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept

You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger telecom sector crony than Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn. From her attacks on net neutrality and consumer privacy, to her support of SOPA and AT&T-written protectionist state laws hampering competition, it's effectively impossible to find a subject where Blackburn didn't take the side of regional broadband monopolies over consumers. It's a major reason that as Blackburn tries to jump from the House to the Senate (to nab Bob Corker's seat) she's found herself notably behind in the polls in a state Trump won by 26 points.

Last week, Blackburn took time out of her busy schedule to participate in a show pony Senate hearing pushed by entrenched telecom operators. Its purpose: to try and sell the public and lawmakers on the idea that killing net neutrality and allowing things like "paid prioritization" (letting one company buy a network advantage over another) will actually somehow be a good thing.

Despite their "victory" on the net neutrality repeal, large ISPs like AT&T and Comcast are worried. They're worried that the FCC's clumsy repeal will be overturned by the looming court battle, and they're worried about how more than half the states in the nation are now pursuing their own net neutrality rules. That's why they've been pushing (with Blackburn's help) for a fake net neutrality law. One that pretends to nobly "put the issue to bed," but contains so many loopholes as to be useless. Its real purpose: pre-empt tougher state rules, and prevent the FCC's 2015 rules from being re-instated in the chance of a court loss.

To sell this policy turd, ISPs and loyal foot soldiers like Blackburn have been trying to make anti-competitive behavior sound sexy. Like here, when Blackburn tries to claim that ISPs should emulate the TSA and its pre-check program as they explore the prioritization of content:

"Many of you sitting in this room right now paid a line-sitter to get priority access to this hearing. In fact, it is commonplace for the government itself to offer priority access to services. If you have ever used Priority Mail, you know this to be the case. And what about TSA Precheck? It just might have saved you time as you traveled here today. If you define paid prioritization as simply the act of paying to get your own content in front of the consumer faster, prioritized ads or sponsored content are the basis of many business models online, as many of our members pointed out at the Facebook hearing last week."

So one, no competent person would suggest the TSA's security theater efforts are worth emulation. Two, quality net neutrality rules always ban anti-competitive paid prioritization deals for good reason. If an ISP lets, say, Disney buy a speed and latency advantage, that puts companies, startups and non-profits that can't afford to pay that same toll at unfair disadvantage. Such deals might be a great money maker for AT&T and Comcast and good for companies that can afford them, but it remains a terrible idea for anybody that wants the internet to remain relatively open and competitive.

Not coincidentally, Blackburn's proposed net neutrality law (likely written by AT&T) bans all of the ham-fisted things ISPs never really had much interest in (the outright blocking of websites, for example), but turns the other cheek on a laundry list of other potentially problematic behaviors like like paid prioritization.

ISPs and their loyal lawmakers like Blackburn have tried repeatedly to insist bans on paid prioritization hamstring innovative services and things like medical care. But that's never been true: the FCC's 2015 rules didn't ban prioritization (VoIP, health services), just anti-competitive paid prioritization. Worried that their repeal won't hold, ISP lobbyists are back again trying to conflate the two concepts (prioritization versus unfair paid prioritization), while insisting that screwing up the open internet will somehow be efficient, fun and productive.


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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 5:31am

    Picturing a "fast lane", quick-service cashier window in Marsha Blackburn's congressional office... lobbyists with cash in hand can leapfrog that pesky "competitive marketplace" nonsense.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 6:46am

    I hate this cunt

    She is saying she is for a free market when she is absolutely not. If she was for free market she would be busy removing the regulations that protect these incumbent ISP's from new competition, but thanks to the fuck "free market" crowd they got the tools needed to drive these government blessed monopolies.

    Between the loser save me from big bad business lefties and the lets fuck everyone over with the power those idiots let us have righties, I don't see a solution here until the partisan masses get over themselves and that just is not happening.

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

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 8:12am

      Re: I hate this cunt

      She is saying she is for a free market when she is absolutely not. If she was for free market she would be busy removing the regulations that protect these incumbent ISP's from new competition, but thanks to the fuck "free market" crowd they got the tools needed to drive these government blessed monopolies.

      Ironically the problem with a free market system is that completely unregulated, someone will inevitably win and knock all of their competitor's out of the market. That's bad for everyone because it allows them to abuse their monopoly control and raise prices on everyone.

      That's why the government breaks up monopolies, for the good of the free market.

      Marsha Blackburn is essentially advocating for that harmful monopoly status for ISPs, and for no one to do anything to break them up to stop them from harming everyone else in the market.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re: I hate this cunt

        > Ironically the problem with a free market system is that completely unregulated, someone will inevitably win and knock all of their competitor's out of the market. That's bad for everyone because it allows them to abuse their monopoly control and raise prices on everyone.

        True, but in a truly free market (one without cronyism,) there is nothing stopping a competitor from starting up and beating the monopoly with cheaper rates. True, there are ways that this fails, but for the most part, a monopoly cannot stay in business long as someone will come along and do it better, faster, and/or cheaper. Monopolies have to play nice to prevent this from happening.

        However, in the current market, the government (due to resources, politics, or otherwise,) has decided that only one group can wire everyone up, and that no other business can go into business to compete. And in many cases, this includes government itself. Thus, there is no way for someone to come in and establish a foothold to break up the monopoly. Google tried, and the monopolies used government to keep them out. Others likely would have tried too, had the government not played enforcer for the monopolists.

        I may be pro-free market, but regulation is necessary. The problem is that for the most part regulation has been used by the monopolists to keep competition out, which is not what regulation should be used for.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:04am

          Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

          Just how many times do you expect the market to pay for the Infrastructure to deliver broadband to everybody?

          The capital costs, along with rights of way negotiations is why broadband is a natural monopoly.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

            a "manufactured" natural monopoly.

            it should be called an "unnatural monopoly" because a natural monopoly implies that a resource that exists in a single location is involved. Example... if you owned the land where the only oasis exists for the area... natural monopoly.

            A wire running across public land, hanging off a poll, or buried in conduit, placed there by humans hardly compares.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 10:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

              "A wire running across public land, hanging off a poll, or buried in conduit, placed there by humans hardly compares"

              I thought the term "natural monopoly" also referred to things that would be really silly to implement via many competing sources of some commodity. For example, it would be really silly to have dozens of wires running to your home, each one being from a competing service. Have you seen those pics of phone wires in India?

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

              • icon
                Derek Kerton (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 11:34am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

                "I thought the term "natural monopoly" also referred to things that would be really silly to implement via many competing sources of some commodity."

                And you are right.

                "Natural Monopoly" is that, and a number of other situations, MOST DEFINITELY including telecoms. Telecoms and utility companies are pretty much the textbook definition of Natural Monopoly.

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

            • icon
              The Wanderer (profile), 27 Apr 2018 @ 5:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

              But the land for the wire to run across does compare.

              Space is a resource, and while there's an unlimited amount of it out there in total, there's only so much of it near any one particular place.

              Just like you can't run twenty different streets to the same house (unless it's something ridiculous like a full-fledged medieval castle, maybe), because there physically is not the space to be able to do so (and you want to use some of what space there is for other purposes), you can't run an unlimited number of wires to the same house either. The limit may be higher than for number of roads, but it's still low enough to be meaningful.

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

          • icon
            Ryunosuke (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 10:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

            Just how many times do you expect the market to pay for the Infrastructure to deliver broadband to everybody?

            so what you are suggesting then, is to raise taxes and have a public or public/private option? You DO know that goes against your Masters at Comcast/AT&T/Verizon right?

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 11:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

              Fortunately, I do not live in the US, and do not have to deal with those companies. Instead my Internet is provided over DSL, and with a simple contract, unlimited, and no small print about reasonable use. I can stream 1080p all day long id I wish, and download Linus ISOs, and up date machines, all with no more than one or two stutters in the streams in a week.

              That is due to the most reasonable solution to the problem of delivering the Internet, force regulations to force the Infrastructure owner to lease capabilities at a reasonable cost to other ISPs. Yes, I also have a choice of ISP, and live in a rural area.

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

        • icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 12:03pm

          Re: Re: Re: I hate this cunt

          "True, but in a truly free market (one without cronyism,) there is nothing stopping a competitor from starting up and beating the monopoly with cheaper rates."

          Yeah, there TOTALLY is. Monopolists can also use the following tricks:

          - economies of scale which lowers cost
          - cheaper access to capital
          - locking down needed suppliers to shut out others
          - setting technical standards, de facto or other, to their preferred technology
          - patents and IP on those standard technologies
          - organizing fake grassroots campaigns against newcomers
          - paid R&D or thinktanks that come out with favorable studies, which trick policymakers (not cronyism, but deceit)
          - you said "one without cronyism". But why? Does cronyism not exist???
          - price dumping (reducing their prices to below profitability in regions where competitors are trying to start, killing their biz model)
          - focusing their improvements and better infrastructure in specific areas where new entrants are launching
          - better brand recognition
          - better amortization of advertising across more customers or addressable market

          Whew, dude! I'm just getting started. I could riff a list three times this big off the top of my head.

          Are those dirty tricks, or just business for monopolists? Both!

          You argue that someone will come along and "knock the monopolist with cheaper rates". This is almost impossible. The monopolist holds all the cards, and the price control, and the ability to "knock competitors out with cheaper rates" is almost always the monopolists tool, not the new entrant!!!

          A startup would need a revolutionary (very unusual) discovery that totally turned the market on its head in order to have a market advantage. This does happen in some industries, and monopolists do get beaten, and someday will. But the telco incumbents have been incumbent for about a hundred years...so don't expect a disruption every autumn.

          "Monopolies have to play nice"
          No. No they don't. Not at all.
          The word "monopoly" effectively means "has market control and so doesn't have to play nice".

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 8:45am

        Re: Re: I hate this cunt

        "Ironically the problem with a free market system is that completely unregulated, someone will inevitably win and knock all of their competitor's out of the market."

        This argument is old and dry. When a monopoly is achieved, it is no longer a free market is it? We need regulations that favor a free market is what I am saying. Right now, we have regulation that intentionally favor monopoly and are clearly anti-free market.

        "That's bad for everyone because it allows them to abuse their monopoly control and raise prices on everyone."

        Yea... our current situation is not bad at all is it? You seem to have some selective biases here. For you no matter how bad this regulatory captured market gets a free-market will always be forever worse. How do you expect to win arguments with that position? In short, regulations created a monopoly that you asked them to prevent.

        "That's why the government breaks up monopolies, for the good of the free market."

        No, the government does not break them up for the good of the free market. Government has no motivation for doing that in the least. They only have motivation to generate fines and play politics... pretty much what gets us into these situations.

        "Marsha Blackburn is essentially advocating for that harmful monopoly status for ISPs, and for no one to do anything to break them up to stop them from harming everyone else in the market."

        So
        Does
        General
        Regulation
        Efforts

        I just do not understand how you do not see that you are getting played. You are getting "seriously" played in the regulation game to the point you are actually playing ball for the ISP's.

        The game is old, well studied, and the button to stop the timer has been ripped out.

        When you ask for regulation, government is all to happy to provide it because they gain power. Businesses will then just buy your regulators and voila... you get screwed. They know it, but you don't!

        Meanwhile you quickly trot out the argument that a free-market will just create a not free market monopoly. Sure you can't have a 100% free-market... some controls have to be in place just for people to have a common trading forum or coinage of some kind. But any regulation put on the books that is not for the express purpose of promoting free-market is a bad regulation. And boy do we have massive amounts of them.

        I bet you don't even know how much your life is regulated right now. 50 years ago only 1 in 20 professions required certification or licensing, now 1 in 4 require it. In some places you can't even carry food from the kitchen to a customers table without a license of some kind!

        Marsha is clearly not a proponent of free-market but it is clear as day that regulations are being used to create and maintain government bless monopolies.

        Once again, your irrational fears have been used to trick you into helping create what you sought to avoid!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:07am

      Re: I hate this cunt

      Either this or that, no gray areas at all. Must make your life a bit easier huh.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 6:54am

    While not a surprise, mentioning another almost universally hated 'service' like the TSA to justify making the almost universally hated telcos doesn't seem like a bright idea.

    And honestly, if the TSA didn't impose so many pseudo-security measures there wouldn't be any use for the pre-check idiocy. And I go further: if you can bypass your goddamn security checks with some screening then they are useless. One can simply build a fake persona that will fit the pre-check requisites and just blow the plane after getting in.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      "...if you can bypass your goddamn security checks with some screening then they are useless."

      Couldnt agree more. Complete waist of time and money.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:03am

    Congratulations.

    Marsha "Internet Pre-check" Blackburn, you are the new Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:09am

    With both the post and the TSA, paid prioritization is a convenience, but you or your parcel still get to their destination (mostly) without paying for the prioritization. With Internet fast lanes, being able to pay or not is the difference between having a useable service for your users, and having so many delays and lost packets that you lose users.

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:45am

    Marsha must have gotten some new kneepads the last time she visited AT&T's headquarters. You can see her wipe her chin every time she exits the building.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:47am

    Dear MRS Blackburn

    Drink bleach.

    Sincerely
    ~ A voter

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:58am

    So...

    She's basically implying that pre-check is nothing more than a money-making scam, and that the "slow lanes" are put there just to encourage people to pay for faster access at the airport?

    Ironically, at my airport, the pre-check lanes are slower because they always have too many people in them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:26am

      Re: So...

      They charge for the "privilege" of TSA Pre-Check, a "service" that is purported to speed up the security check process but actually does the opposite the majority of the time. That sounds like a money-making scam to me.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 8:17am

    knows nothing about broadband other than what Comcast etc has bullshitted her with and how to put the 'encouragement' cheque into the bank!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:13am

    I guess she and many of her colleagues would also like one of those blue lights for their cars similar to that seen in Russia. This blue light allows the user to violate the traffic laws at will and for no reason.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 9:31am

    Yea on top of the data cap of 1 TB that was added to my home $100/mo internet last year with a generous offer of only $50/mo more to now have "unlimited" data. Such BS.

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

  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 26 Apr 2018 @ 11:06am

    False equivalence

    "If you have ever used Priority Mail, you know this to be the case. And what about TSA Precheck?"

    Imagine what happens when the TSA decides that Airlines have to pay a pre-check fee per customer too, or their customers, despite having already paid for it, will be shunted into the normal security lines! Well that is what happens when I, the ISP customer, purchase 300/30 internet speeds, but can't stream Netflix without problems because my ISP wants to charge Netflix for data I already paid for!

    Yes, by all means, ISPs should be dumb pipes. Very dumb. Like, Joe Dirt dumb. I pay for service. I get service. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. Paid Prioritization is double-dipping and needs to be stopped via reclassification as Title 1 services with all the rigamarole about leasing line space, fee caps and everything else. We have no competition. There is no free market. Even Google, with its incredibly vast pockets, simply couldn't compete anywhere an established player already exists.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 1:35pm

    And her example doesn't even hold up.

    Something a little closer would be if the TSA were owned and operated by, say, United Airlines. If you're flying United or your luggage case brand is one of United's partnered luggage manufacturers, you get a free priority bypass. If you happen to be using a competitor, sux2bu.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 2:20pm

    Paid line sitters...

    It sounds like Marsha Blackburn wants internet to be exclusively for rich people.

    Paying line sitters is simply a workaround for the problem of annoying lengthy queues. When we're not trying to work around them, we might start considering how to make a better system that doesn't involve long lines.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2018 @ 7:38pm

    So, you can just cirumvent that using a VPN, so what content you are accessing cannot be determined.

    It is just like the hotel I stayed at in San Diego three years ago. They charged more for their Wifi, if you wanted to do things like watch Netflix or YouTube, and they would be blocked unless you paid the higher fee.

    Using the VPN set up on my home computer, I circumvented those restrictions, allowing me to pay just $10 a day for the hotel's Wifi, instead of $25. My VPN let me circumvent Westin's restrictions and allowed me to access streaming content for less money.

    Doing this to avoid higher fees did not violate either the CFAA or any California laws.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 27 Apr 2018 @ 5:45pm

      Avoiding higher fees...

      I bet charging you higher fees for Netflix or YouTube may have violated California and FCC regulations. When I was attending conventions in San Francisco, I discovered there are a lot of consumer protections regarding how Internet or WiFi service can be provided, and competing services cannot be blocked (which they do). In fact it somewhat runs as a list of specific dirty tricks that obviously some hotel tried in the past to seize a captured market.

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

  • icon
    rrb admit card (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 6:49am

    it should be called an "unnatural monopoly" because a natural monopoly implies that a resource that exists in a single location is involved.

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


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