Flimsy Last Ditch Effort To Derail Real Net Neutrality Protections Launches In Congress

from the let's-play-make-believe dept

With Title II based net neutrality rules pretty much a sure thing, the mega-ISPs have been engaged in a last-ditch attempt to derail the FCC ahead of an expected February 26 announcement and vote. This has included significant pressure on lawmakers to rewrite the Communications Act with a core focus on hamstringing the FCC by eroding both their authority -- and their budget. ISPs are also pushing well compensated Congressfolk to pass new, weaker neutrality rules in an effort to preempt tougher Title II provisions.

At the vanguard of this latter effort sit Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton. The two have been busily firing up an utterly adorable stage play the last week in which they profess to love net neutrality so much, they're starting a "public conversation" about new, bi-partisan neutrality rules they hope to pass. As part of this campaign, the two took to the Reuters op/ed page last week to convince the public that while they once saw neutrality rules as a "solution in search of a problem," they now think we need tough, comprehensive, bipartisan rules crafted after a painstaking public conversation:
"In the coming days, we plan to pursue a public process to draft and enact bipartisan legislation that would protect the open Internet. We hope FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the public will join Congress in working to build and enact a shared set of principles that will protect Internet users, promote innovation, encourage investment — and withstand legal challenge.

We have made this an early priority of this Congress, demonstrating we can come together on a bipartisan basis to protect the vitality of the Internet — now so indispensable to our economy and way of life. Enduring, long-term protections for our digital freedoms are something we should all support."
Clearly this is an amazing, unprecedented example of Congress working through its traditional partisan dysfunction and coming together to ensure the Internet is protected from the lack of last mile competition, nurturing a more robust Internet economy for generations to come. Just kidding. It's all bullshit.

What's actually happening here is Thune and Upton are trying to force through a law written by ISP lawyers that is actually weaker than the original FCC rules AT&T and Comcast supported (but Verizon sued to overturn). By "public conversation," they mean a series of public hearings in which the usual assortment of think tankers, fauxcademics, sock puppets and other ISP-payrolled policy folk gush over the proposal as a more "sensible" solution than Title II. Except when you actually bother to read their proposal (pdf), you'll note that the rules are so stuffed with loopholes, they fail to protect net neutrality whatsoever.

The bill's language leaves the FCC with less flexibility and authority to enforce net neutrality than ever before. It exempts anything having to do with copyright infringement, allows prioritization of a company's own content (provided payments aren't made), doesn't address discrimination via access charges, and has a painfully ambiguous definition of "reasonable network management." It also fails to cover the areas where the most important anti-competitive gatekeeper shenanigans are occurring right now: usage caps, payment schemes to bypass those caps (like AT&T's Sponsored Data), and interconnection.

Consumer groups like Public Knowledge note the proposal only prohibits the kind of ham-fisted offenses ISPs were never even considering (blocking websites or services outright). Otherwise it's a giant wishlist for all of the "creative" gatekeeper pricing efforts carriers have been cooking up for several years, while leaving the FCC largely powerless to protect consumers from them:
"For example, these principles would not have prevented AT&T from limiting FaceTime to particular tiers of service – as it tried to do in 2012. It would not address discriminatory use of data caps, such as Comcast has used to favor its own streaming content over that of rivals. It would not address potential issues arising at Internet interconnection, the gateway to the last mile. Even worse, by eliminating any flexibility on rulemaking or enforcement, the bill would prevent the FCC from addressing any new forms of discrimination and threats to openness that arise."
Still, some folks in the press were impressed that neutrality opponents were striking a "conciliatory note," seemingly portraying Thune and Upton as courageous for reaching across the aisle. That's giving this effort way too much credit, as they're just pantomiming according to a provided script. Worse, the two discard the last four years of progress in net neutrality discussions by actually making their proposal weaker than the rules crafted with Google, Verizon and AT&T's heavy participation in 2010. Thune and Upton's efforts are little more than a mule in a dress trying to do a Marilyn Monroe impression, and it's huge step backward for those interested in meaningful neutrality protections.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 7:35am

    I wonder, if one throws enough dollar bills down a cliff would Fred and John jump after them to their deaths? I propose an experiment.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      I think 'one' would be charged with littering, and local LEO's would collect the 'litter' as 'evidence' never to be seen again, and of course leave the bodies there as fertilizer.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:04am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, the LEO's would leave the bodies because they are not licensed to dispose of chemical waste (Going on the amount of minerals in a typical human body).

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 3:23pm

        Re: Re:

        You could do it. Announce you're going to be throwing money away. When the public arrive, take 'em to the bottom of the cliff. When the pols arrive, take 'em to the top of the cliff, then throw the money off. They'll follow their instincts.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:40am

      Re:

      No they wouldn't jump to their deaths after them. They'd just throw their constituents off the cliff until there was a pile of bodies they could walk down to pick up the money.

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

    • icon
      lucidrenegade (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      Hell, I'd donate a grand to see that happen.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:24am

      Re:

      They'll seize those assets long before you reach the cliff.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:07am

    The ISPs are scared because they know real change could be coming, as it should.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:03am

      Re:

      I would love to believe that real change is coming. I think the only reason they are fighting this so hard is they will have to work harder to screw us. Some changes will happen but not enough to force real competition and real changes. It is a start but still a lot of work needs to be done.

      I truly hope that I am wrong, and that real change will happen, but just trying to be realistic

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:10am

    Bought and paid

    Its worth noting that Upton's number one donor is Comcast.https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00004133

    I can't say for Thune, I'll have to investigate more after work.

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

    • icon
      MM_Dandy (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:41am

      Re: Bought and paid

      Thune used to lobby for and had received campaign funding from the railroad industry. This seems a bit at odds with his recent hard pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline, though, so the railroads may not be as much of an influence on him as they once were.

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

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:35am

    Still ironic

    Still find it ironic that Verizon may eat its own lunch because it couldn't leave well enough alone.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 8:57am

    what is needed more than anything else is complete reformation of Congress and what they are supposed to be doing as opposed to what they are actually doing. there should be no contributions allowed unless the amounts are disclosed and no way should there be any other payments made to government representatives, apart from their salary. anyone found to be receiving ANY sort of payment, whether in cash, goods or in kind, will be punishable by imprisonment and for ever excluded from politics or from being a representative or adviser for any political party, government, company, industry or anything else for ever! my wishful thinking, i know, but think of the change something like this would bring, rather than the pathetic ones at the moment, just because money has changed hands!

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

    • icon
      Almost Anonymous (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      I have a simpler idea: congressional term limits. Three terms, lifetime total, per person. That is, John Doe can only ever have up to three combined (not necessarily back to back) terms in the Senate and House of Representatives. This one simple change would eliminate vast swaths of corruption and hypocrisy. And please, no one spout that crap about not having enough time to "learn the job", you see what happens when they have enough time to learn the job... they never leave! This is not what our founding fathers intended. In fact, serving in Congress was supposed to be an obligation similar to jury duty, not seen as a benefit or plus in any way.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re:

        What would happen in the case of term limits as you propose is that congress critters would simply be that much more motivated to smash and grab everything in sight. It certainly wouldn't fix anything, and would probably make things much worse.

        Pressure flows where there's least resistance.

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

        • icon
          Almost Anonymous (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I have to disagree: first, there wouldn't be any more congress critters, the way you and I mean it. No more professional politicians. Just people that come in, do a job for a short while, and then go back to their own job. I also think it would reduce the effect of lobbying, in that the good ol' boys network would not have enough time to grow strong.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re:

        "I have a simpler idea: congressional term limits. Three terms, lifetime total, per person."

        That would actually make the problem worse, not better. It would increase the amount of power in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that don't have terms at all. Then the corruption would be even more difficult to reign in.

        I fundamentally agree with where the AC is coming from, but my take on it is from the other end: the reason that congresspeople are in such desperate need for so much money is because they need to buy airtime during their campaigns. So, the easiest solution would be to restrict the purchasing of airtime.

        Very nearly every politician in government would love to have the need for fundraising be reduced. As it is right now, they universally complain about the fact that they must spend most of their time during their terms engaging in fundraising.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Very nearly every politician in government would love to have the need for fundraising be reduced. As it is right now, they universally complain about the fact that they must spend most of their time during their terms engaging in fundraising."

          Yet no campaign finance reform.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Think of them as heroine addicts who really want to quit but just don't have the willpower to do so.

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

          • identicon
            Zonker, 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Because that might level the playing field. As much as they may hate fundraising, they would never give up a potential advantage against their rivals to stay in office.

            The promise of a lucrative executive job with your biggest lobbyist where you're paid good money to influence other politicians after you finally get removed from office is another perk that is just too good to give up.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:13am

          Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

          So, the easiest solution would be to restrict the purchasing of airtime.
          Restricting candidate airtime purchases would result in an increase in less-traceable third-party political advertising.

          Rather than attempting to restrict the amount of political speech in the public arena, it's probably better to publicly subsidize candidates' airtime.

          The broadcasters' licenses do not give them ownership of the public airwaves. The broadcasters have a duty to the public.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:18am

            Re: Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

            I was giving the dramatically oversimplified version of what I think actually has to happen -- which is a complete and total ban on all political advertising, excepting for a certain amount of time provided to all candidates at no cost.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:27am

              Re: Re: Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

              Here, here! And, ala George Washington, get rid of the political parties to boot.

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

              • identicon
                Pragmatic, 21 Jan 2015 @ 2:54am

                Re: Re: Re: Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

                Look up the word "Caucus." There's your problem. You can't stop people from getting together and agreeing on stuff. Safety in numbers, and all that.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:30am

              Re: Re: Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

              ... a complete and total ban on all political advertising...
              Iow, you're in favor of a constitional amendment.

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

              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 1:16pm

                Re: Re: Re: Campaign finance [was Re: Re: Re: ]

                In a sense. Given that the Supreme Court has bought into the caustic notion that money == speech, a Constitutional Amendment currently appears to be the only way forward. Of course a future court could always reverse, making an amendment not strictly necessary.

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

        • icon
          Almost Anonymous (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "It would increase the amount of power in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that don't have terms at all."

          I don't see how that follows. There would be no overall reduction in the amount of power that Congress wields, just a shorter duration for any particular person to wield it. Less time worrying about re-election campaigns. Less time redrawing district maps. In general, less time to get up to the shenanigans that has essentially broken our method of government.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If politicians have a fixed exit date, that means that the real, continuous governing is actually done by the functionaries rather than the elected. We see this right now in several places in the US, even: the NSA, etc., deliberately cut the elected government out of things because the politicians aren't around long enough to provide sufficient continuity (in their opinion).

            This is actually an incredibly well-known phenomenon that history provides endless examples of. The most famous, perhaps, being China. China has been considered unconquerable for thousands of years -- not because they can't be militarily conquered, but because the only people who could get things done there are the functionaries that have been around forever. When they'd get militarily conquered, the conquerors would have to rely on the existing functionaries in order to keep the nation running. In the end, nothing would really change much and the people actually ruling were the same ones that had ruled pre-invasion: the functionaries.

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

            • icon
              Almost Anonymous (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So you suggest that we leave the current system which allows the great red dragons to swim in power and money, because otherwise... we'd be conquered by the Mongols?

              I guess you could be right, but frankly that is only an admission that our current republic is irreparably broken.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 12:15pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                So you suggest that we leave the current system which allows the great red dragons to swim in power and money, because otherwise... we'd be conquered by the Mongols?

                Where did he suggest that?

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

              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 1:17pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Huh? I can't follow the logic that leads to that sort of statement, even if it is sarcasm.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re:

        Adding real punishments to the Oaths they take would change the way they act.

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

        • icon
          art guerrilla (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 11:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          1. i got a 'better' (ie will-not-happen-in-a-million-years) idea: FORGET about the bullshit 'principle' (ie the-opposite-of-principle) that money=speech, THAT RIGHT THERE is where we have gone off the rails...
          IF you agree with that 'principle' (ie immorality), you have simply made the death of small-dee democracy INEVITABLE...
          so FORGET THAT SHIT, that 'principle' which is not a principle, is simply ENFORCED upon us by rich people and their eee-vil minions of doom; it is no sort of moral 'principle' i have been raised to recognize...

          2. now, PUBLIC campaign financing is the next step, WITH useless gatekeeper media greedhogs supplying FREE AIR TIME for campaign ads...
          (FUCKERS, we don't get SHIT back for GIVING OUR airwaves to those greedhogs, AT THE VERY LEAST, they can provide free air time during campaign periods every couple years...)

          make that minimum of free media be sufficient, then the candidates for the greedhogs spending above that will have little advantage EVEN IF they outspend 100:1...
          (not perfect, but a start)

          3. shorten the campaigning seasons (not sure exactly what mechanism, etc, but other countries seem to manage it okay), so it is NOT an interminable multi-year snorefest that turns EVERYONE off...

          4. DUMP the Korporate Money Party duopoly of dem'rats/rethugs controlling nearly any and all aspects of our campaign laws, financing, and 'qualifying' candidates, etc... LEVEL the playing field so third/fourth/etc parties can get traction, NOT be relegated to essentially NO STATUS in the races...
          gee, aren't these fucktards endlessly extolling the magical benefits of 'competition' ? ? ? (except for THEM, of course)

          okay, *that* would be a good start; BUT it will NOT happen, because the corrupted, amoral pigs who run/control The System (tm) will NOT allow said system to be modified beyond their control... AGAIN, The System (tm) is NOT 'broken' as far as THEY are concerned; it is working PERFECTLY WELL for their greedy ends... why change a good thing for themselves ?
          they will not...

          in short, i have little/no hope that a broken, corrupted system (for us 99%) will be forced to change by using a broken, corrupt system controlled by the 1%...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      Sounds like a world id like to live in

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

  • identicon
    justme, 20 Jan 2015 @ 12:11pm

    Campaign Finance Reform. . .

    Campaign Finance Reform is badly needed!

    If our elected representatives are to represent the interest's of the citizen's of their state, then any contributions should come exclusively from the citizens of that state.

    Our current system is like someone working for company A, but receiving the majority of there income for there competitor, company B. Without that changing, congress will keep grabbing there ankles for money, and we will continue to be the one's walking funny the next day!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2015 @ 2:44pm

    "We have made this an early priority of this Congress, demonstrating we can come together on a bipartisan basis to protect the vitality of the Internet..."


    Translation: OMG! OMG! The FCC is about to vote on Title II in February! OMG! We have to ram something through Congress quick! Our telcom lobbying investors demand it! OMG!

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

  • identicon
    Jeff Dunham, 20 Jan 2015 @ 5:41pm

    A Truly Free Internet

    I think that to the winner go the spoils. I think that the strongest should be emperor of the Internet. If a company built the backbone, they deserve the share of what they built, and if they have to negotiate with another backbone, so be it. There should be no socialization of control. I also believe that if there is one area in society that power needs to be reduced it is the executive branch of government. Let the Republic be run as one, and give the executive only control over limited things, like overseeing a war or ensuring sovereignty.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 Jan 2015 @ 10:55pm

      Corporate owned is anything but 'free'

      Sounds good, so then, when will those who 'built the backbone' be reimbursing the billions they got from the government/taxpayers in grants and tax breaks then?

      Get public money, build on public land, use public spectrum, and they get to deal with public 'interference'. They want total control, then they get nothing from the public or government, and have to do everything on their own, with absolutely no help from anyone else.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jan 2015 @ 6:52pm

    I'll bet you most of us could retire on the cash that Thune and Upton were paid for this pathetic and probably successful bit of sleight of hand. The Graft Business is good in the halls of power these days.

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

  • icon
    cubicleslave (profile), 23 Jan 2015 @ 7:28am

    Bring back the OTA! (Office of Technology Assessment)
    It is ridiculous to expect congressmen to have a basic understanding of how the internet works or the ramifications/fallout from uninformed policy decisions.

    Perhaps a qualified panel of technology experts be created to advise our elected talking heads, before they go off and do more damage than good.

    Senator Upton is probably accepting more than campaign contributions from Comcast, he is probably getting technology advice as well. Great, just what we don't need.

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

  • identicon
    jaket kulit asli, 6 May 2015 @ 5:00am

    posting nice

    new things and new experiences visiting this blog I really like the articles and posts written on this blog thanks admin

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


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