Imagine that you have a dishwasher made by Frigidaire. Imagine that your water company was particularly evil and wanted to find a way to turn even more profit without really doing anything. Imagine the water company called Frigidaire and said, “Hey, pay us $10,000,000, or else we will alter the water pressure to all Frigidaire dishwashers so that they take twice as long to clean your customers’ dishes.” (Yes, I understand it’s impossible to lower water pressure to a specific appliance. This is a hypothetical.) What options does Frigidaire have? They can pay the water company and set a terrible precedent, effectively giving in to the ransom; or they could refuse to pay, providing an incentive for all of their customers to buy other brands of dishwashers. This is essentially what has been happening with the Internet, at least until two weeks ago when the FCC stepped in and protected consumers by banning this practice. Internet Service Providers must deliver any web content from any website or web service at the same speed. This is “net neutrality.”
Last week I heard the news that a Republican representative, Marsha Blackburn, in the House had introduced legislation, the “Internet Freedom Act,” that would invalidate the FCC’s latest ruling to reclassify internet access as a Title II utility. The implications of the FCC’s decision are that net neutrality would be maintained, and Internet Service Providers could no longer arbitrarily charge content providers (like websites, or services like Netlix) sums of money in exchange to not get their content slowed down; which would drive customers away and kill the website’s business if they didn’t pay up. If they did pay, content providers would theoretically pass on these costs to their customers. This isn’t just a hypothetical, it has already happened.
Maintaining net neutrality was a huge win for the people, especially since there is an increasing feeling that legislators defer to the interests of corporations much more so than the people. The people went up against big business, and we won.
Having been one of the individuals that has pushed others for the last year to unite on this net neutrality issue, I was understandably outraged at this news. A lawmaker sought to destroy all the hard work of the four million people that called in, contacted their state legislators, or left comments at the FCC expressing their support for reclassification to Title II. In my fit of anger, I wrote Marsha Blackburn an email:
I’ll have to say, it was incredibly disheartening to learn just moments ago that my there is now a bill in the House that would roll back the new FCC regulations that reclassify the Internet as a Title II utility.
I was one of the activists that worked very hard to rally and unite the people around this cause; a cause they knew very little about. The Internet is hallowed ground in our society, and the last thing we need is for content providers to be beholden to ISPs, with ISPs holding content providers hostage at any second, forcing them to pay up or be slowed down, ultimately discouraging visitors to the content provider and killing their business.
These regulations are necessary because we have given ISPs the chance over the last twenty years to behave and to treat content providers fairly and most importantly: equally. It worked, for a while, but they can no longer be trusted, e.g. Comcast demanding Netflix pay up or stay slow just last year. No one would like an electric company that could slow down your microwave speed if the microwave company didn’t pay them an arbitrary sum; this is no different.
I ask that you please reconsider pushing this bill. It is a shame that Congress is even considering this action, but based off of your campaign contributions I realize you are beholden to the interests of the telecoms. I’m sure you feel that you owe them something after they gave you $80,000, but please look at this objectively and ask yourself how you would feel if that weren’t the case. Four million Americans spoke up. We united, and we made it very clear what we wanted, and it feels like we aren’t in a fight just with the telecoms anymore about this- it feels like Congress, too, is now the enemy of Internet freedom.
You should be able to extrapolate the severity of the country’s concern for your bill alone by considering that I’m not even in your district and I’m taking a half hour out of my Thursday night to contact you. Additionally, I am among the first contacting you out of eventually millions of people that will oppose this, but I’ll have you know the story has begun circulating the Internet today and is already drawing extremely harsh criticism. You have frustrated millions of people and made many people’s lives worse today upon hearing this news
I would appreciate a response.
I assumed she would ignore this email, but she actually didn’t! I got a reply today. Here it is:
From the Desk of Marsha Blackburn
7th District, TennesseeDeputy WhipCommittee on
Energy and Commerce
Washington Office:217 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2811
District Offices:305 Public Square, Suite 212
Franklin, TN 37064
Telephone: (615) 591-5161128 N. 2nd Street, Suite 202
Clarksville, TN 37040
March 9, 2015 March 9, 2015
Dear Mr. Pedigo:
What a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for contacting me to share your concerns regarding action taken by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the Internet. Hearing from constituents on issues of concern is important to me and our office as we work to represent our district.There is significant discussion about the term “Network Neutrality.” The debate focuses on how to foster investment, create jobs, and competition in both the physical broadband network and in the applications that ride over that network. I believe that access to the Internet should remain open and free from the heavy hand of unelected federal regulators. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) contend that they will be discouraged from undertaking costly and risky build-outs if their networks are subject to open access and/or non-discrimination requirements. On the other hand, independent applications providers argue that in order for them to best meet the needs of end users and offer innovative services they must have nondiscriminatory access to the physical network. In the absence of any case being made for market failure, to me, all Net Neutrality is, is a solution in search of a problem.
In the final days of the 111th Congress, former FCC Chairman Genechowski moved forward with a vote approving the FCC’s ability to fully implement Net Neutrality. In response, Verizon filed a lawsuit contesting the legality of this move. On January 14, 2014, a Federal Appeals Court issued a ruling in Verizon v. FCC stating that the FCC had overreached its authority when issuing Net Neutrality rules.It is my steadfast belief that any change of this magnitude to the communications industry should be made by Congress and not the FCC. Additionally, both Democrat-and-Republican led Commissions in the past have all concluded that broadband is not a telecommunications service as the FCC contends, but an information service outside the reach of Title II common carrier rules. We do not need to regulate the Internet under the same laws created in the 1930s for Morse code.
Allowing the FCC to regulate the Internet will lead us down the road of the federal government picking winners and losers by restricting the flow of information across the Internet, similar to the Fairness Doctrine. The Internet is the last open public marketplace and I have no doubt that its openness is the key to its efficiency and success. In today’s on-the-go digital community the last thing we need is to unnecessarily impede the efficient flow of information by inserting the heavy hand of federal regulators.
On Feb. 26, 2015, in a 3-2 decision, the FCC voted to adopt what Commissioner Ajit Pai has termed, “President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet.” President Obama has not only sought to regulate healthcare, housing, the banks, and the auto industry, now he’s regulating the Internet. The Internet is not broken. A study conducted by the Progressive Policy Institute concluded that re-classifying the Internet like a public utility would result in $11 billion of new fees and taxes. Any time the government inserts itself into a business process, we see higher costs and less access. After the FCC’s recent decision, I fear this is where the Internet is headed.
In an effort to preserve a free and open Internet, I re- introduced H.R. 1212, the Internet Freedom Act of 2015 on March 3, 2015. If enacted, H.R. 1212 would invalidate the FCC’s new Net Neutrality rules by stating they shall have no force or effect. It would also prevent the FCC from reissuing new Net Neutrality rules in the future. You can rest assured that I will remain very engaged in the debate to prevent the FCC from regulating the Internet and implementing their new rules.
Please know that I appreciate both your interest and time in contacting us on this issue. As the discussion moves forward on this and other issues, please feel free to visit our website at http://www.house.gov/blackburn where you can sign-up for our email update, learn about constituent services, and find the latest legislative news and critical information that affects and concerns the people of Tennessee. Also, please feel free to stay in touch via Twitter (@MarshaBlackburn) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/marshablackburn). Thanks again.
Member of Congress
So a generic response that is written in a manner that assumes I’m on her side. What a surprise! Let me go through this sentence by sentence, and show you why this response isn’t any sort of legitimate justification for her to introduce this legislation.
The debate focuses on how to foster investment, create jobs, and competition in both the physical broadband network and in the applications that ride over that network. I believe that access to the Internet should remain open and free from the heavy hand of unelected federal regulators. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) contend that they will be discouraged from undertaking costly and risky build-outs if their networks are subject to open access and/or non-discrimination requirements.
The system wasn’t working. ISPs were not competing. Anyone with a cable bill could tell you that. They were intentionally staying out of each others territory so that they weren’t forced to match prices. This is a form of collusion in the market, which is market failure. Time and time again major ISPs had taken government money to build and improve communications infrastructure, ultimately just keeping the money and doing nothing with it. My point is that the FCC latest ruling is a step in the right direction. ISPs have become incredibly complacent, and there is absolutely nothing about the new regulation that will discourage them from investing or creating jobs. The only money they are now losing out on is the ransom money they shouldn’t have been charging to begin with.
In response, Verizon filed a lawsuit contesting the legality of this move. On January 14, 2014, a Federal Appeals Court issued a ruling in Verizon v. FCC stating that the FCC had overreached its authority when issuing Net Neutrality rules.
And the judge told the FCC that if they wanted to accomplish what they were after, reclassify Internet as a utility and they would be fine. Two weeks ago they did that.
It is my steadfast belief that any change of this magnitude to the communications industry should be made by Congress and not the FCC.
The FCC is an independent regulatory agency for a reason. Communications networks shouldn’t be beholden to a volatile political environment. Regulatory decisions should be made by politically independent neutral experts, not legislators that have no knowledge of the subject and may be tempted to alter regulations with regard to their campaign contributors’ interests (Which I should point out is exactly what Marsha Blackburn is trying to do here).
Allowing the FCC to regulate the Internet will lead us down the road of the federal government picking winners and losers by restricting the flow of information across the Internet, similar to the Fairness Doctrine.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE RULES NOW PREVENT! This is first and foremost a lie and secondly demagoguery with the intent to oversimplify the issue and elicit an emotional response.
The Internet is not broken. A study conducted by the Progressive Policy Institute concluded that re-classifying the Internet like a public utility would result in $11 billion of new fees and taxes. Any time the government inserts itself into a business process, we see higher costs and less access. After the FCC’s recent decision, I fear this is where the Internet is headed.
Fees and taxes? On whom? Tax revenue for the government? Where did the FCC create a new tax? If she is making the assertion that ISPs will charge more, that’s only because (like I said above) they will no longer be able to hold content providers hostage with arbitrary charges.
Marsha Blackburn apparently thrives off of misleading people and destroying what the people have created. Remember folks, this regulation is what THE PEOPLE wanted, not the government. Her entire email is written in a manner that implies that this whole net-neutrality issue was something Obama created, when in fact it was not. THE PEOPLE UNITED, AND WE GOT EXACTLY WHAT WE WANTED; THIS WAS OUR IDEA, THIS WAS WHAT WE FOUGHT FOR.
Here is a list of the bill’s co-sponsors, I would strongly encourage everyone to email your legislator if he or she is on this list. We cannot let them roll back what we fought so hard for.