Bill Would Ban Broadband Shutoffs Until COVID-19 Pandemic Eases

from the going-nowhere-fast dept

A few weeks back, the Trump FCC put on a big show about a new "Keep America Connected Pledge." In it, the FCC proudly proclaimed that it had gotten hundreds of ISPs to agree to not disconnect users who couldn't pay for essential broadband service during a pandemic. The problem: the 60 day pledge was entirely voluntary, temporary, and because the FCC just got done obliterating its authority over ISPs at lobbyist behest (as part of its net neutrality repeal), it's largely impossible to actually enforce.

Shockingly, numerous ISPs immediately proceeded to ignore that promise, and began kicking customers offline. Several ISPs even kicked disabled folks offline, despite repeatedly promising not to. And despite making a big stink about the pledge, the Ajit Pai FCC's response to this was to do nothing. Not only has the FCC done nothing, it has tried to claim that the reason we're seeing a surge in these complaints is somehow thanks to the FCC's half-assed efforts on this front:

"Although we have received some disconnection complaints recently, we think it may reflect increased attention on the FCC's work to keep people connected," the spokesman said."

That's of course nonsense. ISPs were never going to adhere to a voluntary promise pushed by a feckless, captured FCC with no authority to punish them. A powerless FCC was their reward of the recent, scandal-plagued net neutrality repeal. It's also worth noting that the FCC doesn't track disconnection complaints, because, well, America.

Enter a new bill sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Jeff Merkley that would make it illegal to terminate the connections of broadband subscribers during the pandemic (barring instances of network abuse). From the announcement:

"Now—as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning—would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like internet service,” said Merkley. “Oregonians and people across America deserve to know that as we weather the social and economic consequences of this storm together, they will still have be able to go to work, go to school, buy groceries, and stay connected to loved ones—all of which many depend on the internet to do. Congress should include this protection in the next coronavirus response bill."

Of course the bill will never, ever pass thanks to a Senate slathered in telecom campaign contributions. But I guess it's the thought that counts.

Filed Under: account shutoff, ajit pai, authority, bernie sanders, covid-19, fcc, jeff merkley, keep america connected, pandemic, ron wyden


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  • icon
    Koby (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:38am

    Socialization

    We've seen where this leads in other industries. In some counties, they can't shut off the electricity to non-payers. In Michigan, they can't shut off the water to non-payers. Effectively, the utility becomes socialized. And unless you like the South African electricity model, or the Michigan water model, the quality of a socialized broadband is going to make the current US monopoly ISPs look like heaven.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:57am

      Re: Socialization

      Funny how you're so scared of socialism, yet countries that have socialist programs don't have half the issues you guys have.

      "In some counties, they can't shut off the electricity to non-payers. In Michigan, they can't shut off the water to non-payers."

      Good. There are ways to recoup from debtors without risking their lives, and cutting those services off from the genuinely needy will do nothing to make them afford to pay, and may in fact make them less able to do so.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 7:29am

      Re: Socialization

      I find it humorous that some people do not consider public utilities to be "socialism".

      What would you suggest be done with those who are unable to provide for themselves? Are we humans above animal status, we do not act like it.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        tz1 (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:25am

        Re: Re: Socialization

        Those unable to provide for themselves should live in luxury, while people who are working hard have to go into debt, pay high taxes, lose their house to property taxes... I have charity to those who are disabled and so are unable. I have no sympathy for those seeking handouts while I have to work. Most of these aren't UNABLE, but either prevented by the same government who should give them coarse gruel and tents and will as soon as the money runs out. Those who refuse work should not be given benefits. Every inch of most of these cities should be shining from all the cleanings and trash pickup by those who "have no jobs". I can think of lots of things they can do for their city overlords. Why don't you take all of your stuff, sell it, and provide for these unfortunate instead of robbing me by government proxy so you can feel about giving away someone else's money.

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

        • identicon
          TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 8:38am

          Re: Re: Re: Socialization

          If you believe living on unemployment benefits is "luxury" - then I challenge you to live on that amount of income and that amount of income alone three months. No touching savings, checking, etc. Only the amount that you would get from unemployment.

          If you believe the majority of people looking for applying for unemployment are seeking handouts, then I have a con to sell- I mean a great business opportunity for you that is totally not a scam in any way. It's not like you'll actually take the time to look at details of those seeking unemployment instead of relying on your kneejerk emotional reaction and what you believe to be true.

          If those who refuse to work should be denied benefits, then please go fill their places in the meatpacking plants. It's not like you need to worry about catching a dangerous, virulent disease.

          If you wish to not be robbed by government proxy, then I would like to be paid back for all the taxes I paid into your use of roads. I'd also like to be reimbursed for all the money I've put into paying your social security benefits, down the line. How about returning all the funds I've put into health insurance, so that there's a pool of money supposedly available for when you get sick? Can I get you to refund me the money I've paid into ensuring that law enforcement can respond to criminal conduct in your area, and thereby ostensibly keep you safe? I mean, as a working person, I do pay a lot for your benefit. You really need to stop robbing me by government proxy so you can avoid buying all these services yourself.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 8:38am

          Re: Re: Re: Socialization

          I was unaware that running water, flush toilets and electricity were now considered to be luxuries. How far have we fallen that the us is now a third world country.

          Do you have equal disdain for those rich connected people receiving handouts? How are handouts to the rich different than the handouts to the poor? The rich will probably put it in savings while the poor will most likely spend it ... thus helping the economy, why is this not a win - win?

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Socialization

            "I was unaware that running water, flush toilets and electricity were now considered to be luxuries."

            Which, it should be stressed, many areas of the US only have due to "socialist" programs like the New Deal in the first place...

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Socialization

          "Those unable to provide for themselves should live in luxury"

          You consider having access to basic utilities "luxury"? Because that's all anyone's talking about here.

          "instead of robbing me by government proxy"

          Ah you're one of those people. I bet your personal share of taxes goes way more toward the heads of the corporations you're slaving away for than they do to unworthy poor people.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 9:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Socialization

            Someone still believes in the Welfare Queen myth and dogwhistle. They couldn't even catch out anyone with the drug-tests-for welfare scheme, let alone mass fraud.

            Never mind that there is an enforced unemployment rate. Let's also forget the fact that most money goes to government programs and departments which literally help no-one, like all the fake security services.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 9:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Socialization

              "Someone still believes in the Welfare Queen myth and dogwhistle."

              Which, amusingly, was created during the Reagan era to distract from the wholesale sell-off of the US manufacturing industry and massive socioeconomic problems in certain communities that by nature require "socialism" to fix.

              My experience is a lot of these guys have never got out of a certain version of the 80s, where Red Dawn was a documentary and Gordon Gecko was not a bad guy...

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 7:38am

      Re: Socialization

      As a Michigander, take a big step back.

      Flint is not the whole of Michigan. Flint's failure with its water delivery infrastructure is certainly a thing, but you know what city is regularly considered a terrible place to live? Detroit.

      You know what city has an excellent water system, with consistently clean and safe water? Also Detroit. A socialized water utility is not automatically bad. Please try again.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 7:39am

      Re: Socialization

      Funny how some are so adamant against socialism for the peons, but all for socialism when it comes to bailing out their corporate buddies.

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

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:03am

      Re: Socialization

      Without socialism, without government intervention, much of the rural US wouldn't have gotten electricity, water, phones or even postal service. The state of broadband in the US is a damning indictment of how the free market doesn't work when it comes to essential services, it certainly isn't something that needs defending, and definitely not preserving.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 9:06am

      Re: Socialization

      Socialist-type policies are bad. Time to get rid of the entire military and its budgets. Time to stop subsidizing all raw material extraction industries. Time to stop subsidizing... broadband and telecom, since it never did anything for the consumer anyway.

      It's only socialist and bad when it helps out poor individual poor humans, innit?

      And since capitalism is equally awful if not worse, how about we move to a resource-based economy and knock it off with all the religious -isms which only work in the fevered wet dreams of pseudo-philosophers and economists?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 6:22am

      Re: Socialization

      I concur with PaulIT. In europe we've had covid for longer and although there are issues, our "socialized" industries and "regulated" economy appears to be in way better shape than the US.

      I don't know what I find worse. The fact that americans chose to abandon every safety margin for a min-maxed glass cannon economy, causing their current dilemma to be way worse than it ought to be...
      ...or the fact that you guys keep lying through your teeth about how we "socialists" have it so much worse (which we don't).

      Is this a good time to point out that for roughly 30 years or so the quality of most european "socialized" utilities have been beating the US infrastructure hands down? We aren't drinking the flint river or facing a whopping 10%+ of our population suffering food insecurity.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 7:50am

    (barring instances of network abuse)

    Of course, to the ISP, failing to pay every penny you have is obviously abuse of the network. So is attempting to use the service you've paid for.

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      Given it's Ron Wyden behind the bill, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't allow for much wiggle room in the definition of "network abuse," at least not it's in initial incarnation.

      What will happen to it over the course of the process, assuming it gets far enough, is anyone's guess, though.

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

  • icon
    tz1 (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:34am

    So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

    Shouldn't they keep working but we can suspend their paychecks in a similar moratorium? Why should I pay for gasoline, instead I should just hack the pumps to give it away free. And groceries. Maybe we can arrange for flash mobs so we can all grab anything we want and walk out without paying for it. Well, the businesses need to pay their vendors, landlords their property taxes too, so there needs to be a second moratorium so the empty stores can be refilled without the stores having to pay their vendors. And the vendors have to pay the raw material supplier... But let me make a better suggestion. Lets INCREASE the bill for everyone who CAN PAY - refundable when the currently unable can pay their defecits down. How much more are YOU willing to pay? Out of YOUR OWN pocket to keep everyone online? The middle states are opening and able to pay their bill. Why should they subsidize the coward coasts that are going to stay locked down until next year? Free lunches are great until all the farmers go bankrupt and everyone starves. Anyone else save for a rainy day?

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 8:39am

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      Please refund me all taxes that I have ever paid on your behalf.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

        I'm sure them amounts he's whining about needing for all that stuff would still be less than the amount wasted every year of unnecessary military programs. It's always fascinating to me that these guys demand their own countrymen starve because they're not "worthy" enough, but they'll not think twice of wasting many times more on things that go bang.

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

        • identicon
          TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 9:33am

          Re: Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

          I don't disagree, but I mostly just want them to put their money where their mouth is.

          Don't want to be paying to cover others? Return everything everyone's ever paid on your behalf.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 9:44am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company

            "Return everything everyone's ever paid on your behalf."

            You first. If you think that figure is $0, you don't understand the first thing about what you're talking about. Everyone pays taxes, some more than others, but some object to their money going to bomb civilians in other parts of the world than you object to someone not starving this month.

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

            • identicon
              TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 2:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband com

              Paul, I think you may have misunderstood me. I agree with taxes, I agree with unemployment benefits, I agree with not kicking people off the internet in the middle of pandemic. And I'm with that the military budget is outsized compared to useful things like education (disclosure: I have a sibling who is a teacher).

              "Don't want to be paying to cover others? Return everything everyone's ever paid on your behalf."

              This is directed at tz1, in response to his rant regarding, well. Being forced to pay for others to be able to live. If he doesn't want to pay into the social well-being of the society he lives in? Then he should refund the members of society (such as myself) that have paid into the benefits of it that he enjoys.

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 11:18pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband

                OK, I apologise if I misunderstood, I just went for the words that looked like they were the same false argument I keep seeing, I now see that you weren't really on that side of things.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 8:45am

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      The "middle states" can barely afford to keep their grain stills in operation. They're not subsidizing anyone, much less the "coward coasts" whose populations outnumber the corn belt by orders of magnitude. The "coward coasts" have been subsidizing corn production (or paying farmers to do nothing instead of growing something) for eons. Pure socialism. This is a high horse you should not be riding.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 6:39am

        Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

        "The "coward coasts" have been subsidizing corn production (or paying farmers to do nothing instead of growing something) for eons. Pure socialism. This is a high horse you should not be riding."

        Oh, leave him be. He's still stuck in his narrative of the poor, honest, hard-working "men of the land" getting taken advantage of by the leftist devil-worshipping liberal damyankees.

        The only cure might be to give those people exactly what they wish for and pull the plug on every US government subsidy. At which point a number of destitute republicans will suddenly turn socialist, I wager.

        Hasn't a single one of those clowns ever read any of the oft-published studies on just how much subsidy goes into everything they keep taking for granted - like the low price of power and gas?

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 7:03am

        Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

        "The "coward coasts" have been subsidizing corn production (or paying farmers to do nothing instead of growing something) for eons."

        A side effect of that is that high fructose corn syrup is in damn near everything, which reduces the overall health of the nation because cheap crap loaded with that stuff is easier and cheaper to buy than actual fruits and vegetables (which aren't subsidised to the same degree).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 9:22am

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      I see lots of griping, but I do not see how you are being impacted any differently than others which seems to be the point of your complaints.

      I hear that we are all in this together thing and understand its intent but - are we really all in this together? I do not think so, as there are many out there who seem to be intentionally making it worse with their comments, actions and brandishing of weapons - and the president seems to be encouraging them. wtf

      But yes Karen, it is the poor that are to blame for all of this

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

        "But yes Karen, it is the poor that are to blame for all of this"

        This message brought to you by the corporations who claimed the bulk of the "small business" bailouts, and Wall Street who got a nice windfall when Trump tried a desperate attempt to save the Dow while pretending this pandemic wasn't happening.

        Millions, if not billions have been needlessly thrown away in this crisis, but it's all the fault of people who might undeservedly get free internet for a month. Sure...

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 11:22am

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      Most of your post is intellectually dishonest dipshittery, but I'll focus in on this particularly bullshit claim:

      The middle states are opening and able to pay their bill. Why should they subsidize the coward coasts that are going to stay locked down until next year? Free lunches are great until all the farmers go bankrupt and everyone starves. Anyone else save for a rainy day?

      Interesting claim, because any intellectually honest look at the situation would note that the coastal states tend to be donor states that pay more into the federal government, and those "middle states" that are opening up, have long been the biggest handout takers from the federal government.

      https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/donor-states/

      Funny. Were you complaining then about their failures to "save up for a rainy day" or are you just a hypocritical dipshit? Either way, no, the middle states have never been able to pay their bill. They've been taking from the coasts for decades.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 1:13pm

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      Your reductio ad absurdum has gone too far beyond the absurd barrier. You're the only person who ever worked hard and you singlehandedly support every other citizen against your will.

      Broadband companies can easily absorb not disconnecting customers. They wouldn't even notice. Especially with all the massively increased handouts in recent years.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 5:57pm

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      Ask Richard Bennett. He accepts blowjobs for Ajit Pai.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 6:30am

      Re: So who pays the workers at the Broadband company?

      " Why should they subsidize the coward coasts that are going to stay locked down until next year? Free lunches are great until all the farmers go bankrupt and everyone starves. Anyone else save for a rainy day?"

      Know how we can tell you never had a single look at just how much your own daily life relies on government subsidy, even in the US?

      It's somehow amazing how some americans still keep believing in the fairytale that they are somehow better off not paying higher taxes or caring about the social contract...all the way up until they hit some emergency and find out the hard way that they got a lot less for a lot more by letting a monopoly industry set the rate they paid for every utility.

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

  • identicon
    fmhilton, 15 May 2020 @ 1:22am

    So why pay for a luxury?

    Did anyone actually believe that ISPs would really voluntarily not resume normal operating conditions?

    In spite of those lovely commercials they run saying "In these difficult times, we're here for you", which really should be reworded to include "just make sure you pay your bill because we don't give a damn if you're unemployed or broke."

    The idea of being charitable was not written into their agreement with the FCC, merely that they wouldn't be too greedy while people are dying or children need to teleconference with their teachers because they're in quarantine.

    Which is why I laughed when they said they would do it. Who's going to enforce a voluntary request?

    Not a toothless,powerless and totally defanged FCC.

    Because they know where their money is going and how effective their contributions to campaigns are. Those they buy stay bought.

    It's written in the fine print on the bill you receive.

    Really fine print. Like invisible.

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


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