Blackburn’s Network Neutrality Bill Blasted As Fake

Earlier this week, Republican lawmaker Marsha Blackburn introduced network neutrality legislation. The bill is being blasted as fake network neutrality legislation.

The killing of network neutrality by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has sparked fierce backlash both before and after the vote. On the lead up to the vote, people from all walks of life were making their voices heard. This includes Internet and tech founders, celebrities, and ordinary Americans alike.

With so much backlash, a question on a lot of American’s minds is: where does the fight go to from here? As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, there are multiple ways in which supporters can go. This includes the Congressional Review Act (CRA) among many other fronts. If anything, the CRA will put lawmakers on record on whether or not they support an open Internet.

It seems that some lawmakers have noticed the backlash and are now trying to come up with ways in which to protect the Internet. This includes Republican’s who are hoping to join the bandwagon on saving the Internet. Earlier this week, Forbes noted one Republican who claims to be doing her part:

In new legislation released today, Congress offered net neutrality advocates what they claim to have wanted for the last decade—enforceable, bright-line rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking, throttling or otherwise discriminating against some Internet traffic for anticompetitive reasons.

The Open Internet Preservation Act, introduced by House Energy and Commerce Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would give the FCC authority to enforce the rules.

If passed, it would end a contentious process that has seen at least half a dozen policy reversals over the last ten years, as the Commission and the courts fought over whether the agency ever had authority from Congress to regulate the Internet in the first place.

Democrats in Congress will now have to choose between securing their stated goal of open Internet protections enforceable by the FCC or continuing to lobby for what has long been the openly-stated actual goal of advocacy groups—the nationalization of broadband as a government network or a quasi-governmental public utility.

The Act did receive a fair bit of attention, but likely not in the way Blackburn would’ve hoped. Observers are slamming the effort as a fake network neutrality bill. Karl Bode of Techdirt called the legislation fake and that it would make the FCC’s “idiotic” decisions permanent:

Today Blackburn unveiled the “Open Internet Preservation Act” (pdf), which, as we predicted, bans things like outright throttling, but ignores numerous other possible avenues of abuse by ISPs, including zero rating, paid prioritzation, and interconnection shenanigans. The bill also tries to ban states from trying to protect net neutrality in the wake of federal apathy, another gem ISPs like Comcast have been coincidentally lobbying for the last few months.

Blackburn made sure to leak first looks at her bill to news outlets she knew would be sure to parrot any number of net neutrality falsehoods that were debunked years ago

Bode went on to point out Blackburn’s history of attacking network neutrality, calling network neutrality a government takeover that needs to be repealed.

Dell Cameron of Gizmodo shared the language that the Open Internet Preservation Act is a fake network neutrality bill. Cameron said that the bill is actually intended to not only allow Internet fast lanes, but is also authored by someone who wants ISPs to edit and censor news online:

To get an idea of how much power Blackburn believes ISPs should have, we turn to an interview she gave CNN last winter when allegations of “fake news” influencing the presidential election were still fresh. It was during this interview, which took place less than a month after the November 8 elections, that Blackburn suggested giving Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other leading broadband carriers the authority to vet and censor information viewed by American voters online.

Internet providers have an “obligation,” she said, to get fake news “off the web.”

The fact that Americans can hardly agree on what constitutes “fake news” notwithstanding, the notion that AT&T should be obligated to censor the internet ranks high on the list of the dumbest ideas any lawmaker has ever had with regard to internet regulation. As you can imagine, Blackburn’s idea of “fake news” likely varies greatly from those who don’t share her political views.

Blackburn went on to describe an incident with one of his colleagues who was offered a job at an ISP controlled news organization. The story described how this colleague was told that reporters are explicitly forbidden to write anything about network neutrality or anything that would make the ISPs look bad.

One theory one can draw on why Blackburn is proposing this legislation in the first place is to try and obfuscate Republican positions on the CRA should it come down to a vote. It opens up the opportunity to say that they don’t like the way CRA was handled, but that they support network neutrality by supporting this bill instead.

If anything, it is a recognition that American’s support an open Internet and that support crosses party lines. It is also a sign that efforts to turn network neutrality into a partisan issue is not working.

The battle to save the Internet in the US continues on.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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