House Dems Start To Wimp Out On Net Neutrality

from the ill-communication dept

Back in March we discussed the unveiling of the Save The Internet Act, a three page bill that would do one thing: restore the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules stripped away by Ajit Pai, as well as restore the FCC's authority over broadband providers. As we've long noted, the net neutrality repeal didn't just kill net neutrality, it gutted FCC authority over natural broadband monopolies, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC experts have repeatedly warned lacks the authority or resources to adequately police giants like Comcast (the entire, often missed point of the telecom industry's lobbying gambit).

In April, the House passed the bill, though Senator Mitch McConnell stated the bill would be "dead on arrival" once it reached the Senate. McConnell was happy to ignore the fact that net neutrality protections have the bipartisan support of a majority of Americans, reiterating how so many tech policy decisions are inaccurately framed as partisan. Why? It helps encourage division and stall progress on any measures that challenge the revenues of the nation's biggest (and least liked) companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter Spectrum).

Realizing that the chance of Senate passage is dwindling thanks to McConnell, numerous House Democrats have no started to slowly walk away from the Save The Internet Act, instead saying they want the creation of a "net neutrality working group" (read: try to create an entirely new bill that actually will pass):

"Around three dozen lawmakers are crafting a letter to send to the House’s Democratic leadership—including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)—expressing their desire for a working group to be formed in the wake of the Save the Internet Act not gaining traction in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “dead on arrival.”

The draft letter was signed by more than 30 Democrats in the House, and staffers for six lawmakers confirmed to the Daily Dot this week that their lawmakers signed it. The draft letter has not yet been delivered, according to two sources familiar with the matter."

For those who haven't followed the net neutrality fight closely, this might sound like a good idea. But the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules were already crafted after more than a decade of debate. They're the result of years upon years of workshops, meetings, hearings, and previous, failed efforts (like the FCC's flimsy 2010 rules). There's also the fact that the bipartisan majority of the public wants these rules restored intact, and they have the support of every consumer group of note in the United States. A new working group would effectively be starting this entire process over.

The problem of course is that if McConnell's senate won't pass the Save The Internet Act, it's equally unlikely it's going to pass any new bill worth the time it takes to debate it. Any bill that does make it through the Senate and gains the support of telecom industry BFFs like Marsha Blackburn is going to be so watered down and filled with loopholes as to be useless. That's of course been the goal of the telecom sector for a while: shovel some terrible net neutrality bill in name only that doesn't fix the problem, but does pre-empt any tougher state or federal law from taking root.

It's worth remembering that there's currently a lawsuit against the FCC that should be ruled on any day now. If won, that lawsuit, filed by 23 State attorneys general, consumer groups, and companies like Mozilla, would fully restore the FCC's 2015 rules (a major reason why telecom lobbyists are rushing toward new bills they'll help write that would pre-empt alternative options).

If you're a lawmaker genuinely interested in having tough net neutrality protections on the books, it makes far more sense to wait for the outcome of that case, and use Republican opposition to an idea with widespread bipartisan support as fodder in the 2020 elections. Then try again with a different array of lawmakers, some of whom, hopefully, are less prone to mindlessly kissing the ass of predatory telecom monopolies with thirty years of documented, anti-competitive behavior under their belts.

Filed Under: congress, fcc, net neutrality

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2019 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Re: natural monopolies

    Think of the staggering physical infrastructure built by WalMart, McDonalds, Amazon, etc -- but you can still buy same type stuff from numerous competitors large and small.

    Those are businesses where the customer goes to the business, physically or online. A competitor can set up in new premises, and attract customers away from existing business, although if the market is near saturation, small competitors will go out of business, like Amazon is destroying many smaller local shops.

    Water, electricity, piped gas, roads, wired/cable/fibre communications are all businesses where the business install infrastructure up to and into their customers premises. Full competition would require that all providers can service every potential customer, which means duplicated infrastructure and increased costs per customer for the competitors. Those are conditions where any overlap of services end when one player gains market dominance. It is the reason that cable is beating out the phone system where there cable exists, it provides the phone, along with usually better TV and Internet service. There is also the problem of finding space to run in the infrastructure, while staying clear of existing infrastructure, and ensuring that access to the existing and new infrastructure is possible for repairs.

    The breakup of AT&T did not eliminate the natural monopoly, it just replaced a single large monopoly with smaller more localized monopolies.

    Mobile phone is an interesting case, but then it is not a service to a fixed location, and each service needs to cover most of a country to keep its customers.

    American roads and railways mostly arose as private enterprises with no monopoly power.

    And are dominantly monopolies in the areas that each serve. You may have a choice for some of a journey if you are travelling longer distances, but for most local journeys the route you use is determined by where you start and end your journey. That is a natural monopoly can be a local phenomenon, while the network may not be a single monopoly, but rather a collection of monopolies using common standards, and interconnection agreements.

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