We've all seen how Congress sneaks controversial issues into larger "must pass" bills. The folks over at Public Knowledge are highlighting how our elected officials are trying to sneak three questionable policies
-- all related to wireless technologies and access -- into a single "must pass" payroll tax bill, that has absolutely nothing to do with wireless technologies:
No Net Neutrality Protections. Forget your feelings about the FCC’s formal Open Internet Rules. An amendment by Rep. Marsha Blackburn would prevent any restrictions on network management, block any requirements to make connectivity available on a wholesale basis (which would increase competition), and stop the FCC from passing a rule allowing users to attach any non-harmful device to the network. As a result, the winner of the spectrum auction would be able to throttle, block, and discriminate however it sees fit – something that runs counter to any definition of network neutrality.
No Safeguards Against Further Consolidation. It is no secret that one of the reasons that there are only four nationwide wireless carriers (and two dominant ones) is that only a few companies control most of the available spectrum in the United States. This amendment would prevent the FCC from making sure that new spectrum goes towards new or under-provisioned competitors instead of being further consolidated by AT&T and Verizon. That’s probably why AT&T is pushing so hard for this amendment.
No Super-Wifi. One of the greatest boons of the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting was supposed to be the creation of unlicensed “whitespaces” or “super-wifi.” This new spectrum – which is much better at communicating long distances and through walls than current wifi spectrum – would be used cooperatively by everyone and usher in a new era of wireless devices. However, a third amendment would destroy the FCC’s power to allocate some of this great spectrum for unlicensed uses. That means that opportunity would simply pass us by.
I'm not necessarily convinced that all three things are quite as "horrible" as described, but at the very least, I think everyone can agree that they have no business (at all) being in a payroll tax bill. If these are ideas worth considering, they should be put in a separate bill where they can be debated accordingly.