Hearing On New Net Neutrality Law Once Again Conjures Up A Greatest Hits Of Nonsense

from the round-and-round-we-go dept

As we previously noted, Democratic lawmakers recently just proposed a very simple, three page law. The Save The Internet Act would simply reverse the Ajit Pai repeal of net neutrality, and restore the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules. It would again classify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Telecom Act, but, as an act of Congress, couldn't be repealed by the whims of future FCCs. It also locks the "forbearance" part of the original rules (which prevented the FCC from using Title II to regulate broadband rates) into permanent law.

Unfortunately at House Communications Subcommittee hearing for the new bill on Tuesday, all the stale tropes resurfaced, despite the countless years spent debunking them. Representative Bob Latta, for example, trotted out the longstanding claim that classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II is some kind of fringe, extremist position:

"[I]nstead of engaging with us to try to solve the problem, my colleagues have retrenched back to the most extreme position in this debate. The idea that only Title II is a real net neutrality is dangerous and wrong," Latta said. "You have heard over and over again that we need to protect consumers from blocking, throttling and internet fast lanes. That sounds reasonable enough. Well, we can easily do all of this without giving the government free rein through the specter of Title II."

Except there's nothing "extreme" about Title II. As we've noted countless times ISPs have been classified this way on and off for many years, including the earliest part of the internet when broadband growth was the most intense. Many ISPs have actively sought this classification when it provides tax benefits or when it suits a specific legal agenda. It's yet another "debate" that isn't really a debate, exemplifying how no matter how long we bicker over net neutrality, the same debunked falsehoods simply won't die.

All the other claims against net neutrality made their obligatory appearance at the hearing, including the industry-repeated claim that Title II and net neutrality "stifled broadband industry investment." It's a claim easily disproved by SEC filings, ISP earnings reports, and even the public statements of more than a dozen telecom CEOs. Yet, like so many of these arguments, it somehow never dies, thanks to telecom lobbyists eager to mislead via repetition, and cultivate a general sense of futility and fatigue among debate observers.

We've long noted how framing net neutrality as a partisan thing is stupid. There should innately be nothing partisan about basic rules that prevent monopoly telecom operators from using their power as internet gatekeepers to harm competitors. And the FCC's 2015 rules were crafted after decades of hearings, countless debates, and numerous court battles already. But despite the bipartisan majority of Americans supporting the end result, ISP lobbyists have been very successful in framing the issue as partisan to stall consensus.

For their part, Congressional Republican opponents to net neutrality continued to insist that despite overwhelming public support, this bill isn't a good idea and a new "compromise" was needed:

"It's time for bipartisan legislation that could actually become law," Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, said at the hearing. "Unfortunately, my friends on the other side have decided not to work with us." Bob Latta, a Republican from Ohio and a ranking member on the committee, accused Democrats of retrenching "to the most extreme position in this debate."

One problem is that the FCC's 2015 rules, crafted over the better part of two decades, are the compromise. The other problem is that Walden's and others' preferred alternative "compromise" legislation has proven to be anything but. Most of these alternative proposed bills have been little more than bad faith gambits; net neutrality in name only. More often then not, these alternative bills have been industry-supported efforts packed with countless loopholes designed specifically to do one thing: prevent tougher, better state and federal laws from being passed.

As it stands, the Save the Internet Act has a solid chance of passing the House. It has an uphill climb in the Senate however, and would still need to somehow avoid a veto by Donald "Net neutrality is the fairness doctrine" (for the record it's not) Trump. Even if it fails to pass, it will serve another function: provide a handy scorecard ahead of the 2020 elections clearly highlighting lawmakers who think AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon's quest to behave anti-competitively is more important than the will of the public or the health of the internet.

Filed Under: broadband, congress, fcc, net neutrality


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  1. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 19 Mar 2019 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's more a bill specifically to tell Pai "No, you don't get to unilaterally repeal Congress's mandate to the FCC just because you said so."


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