We’ve noted a few times now that ever since the FCC passed net neutrality rules, loyal ISP politicians in the House and Senate have been engaged in a full-court press to punish the agency for daring to stand up to big broadband ISPs. That has involved an endless parade of taxpayer-funded hearings pretending to be about agency transparency and accountability — but are really just about publicly shaming the agency. It has also involved a laundry list of bills that attempt to thoroughly gut FCC funding and authority under the pretense of saving the country from a power-mad FCC.
This not-so-subtle ballet continued this week, when the House passed a new budget bill that would gut the FCC’s 2017 budget by $69 million, stall the FCC’s attempt to bring competition to the cable box, and prevent the FCC from enforcing net neutrality violations until the industry’s lawsuit is settled. In fact, like previous bills, this new budget bill uses an absurdly broad definition of “rate regulation” to effectively prevent the FCC from doing anything:
“The GOP proposals define rate regulation so broadly that Wheeler says they would prevent the FCC from enforcing key net neutrality provisions and disrupt its process for reviewing mergers. The budget bill again uses a definition of rate regulation that goes far beyond the utility rate-setting traditionally imposed on landline phone providers. The proposal would prevent the FCC from using its net neutrality rules to act against discriminatory data cap policies, among other things.”
Note that this latest push comes — not coincidentally — as ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have started pushing usage caps harder, and the FCC has started dropping hints that it might just do something about it.
All the while, the pretense continues that this is all just the House’s quest to ensure government is fiscally responsible, transparent, and accountable before the “American people.” From an announcement by House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers:
“The job of this bill is two-fold: to make wise investments with taxpayer dollars in the programs and agencies that we need to grow our economy and enforce our laws, and to tightly hold the reins on the over-spending and overreach within federal bureaucracies. This bill makes great strides on all accounts – carefully investing taxpayer dollars in programs that promote opportunity, while keeping these agencies accountable to the American people.”
You are, of course, supposed to ignore that Rogers received $25,000 in campaign contributions during the current election cycle from the telecom industry, and that this is all just a giant stage play designed to punish the telecom regulator for actually doing its fucking job.