Since the FCC passed net neutrality rules last February, ISP allies in Congress have been working tirelessly to either gut the rules, or shame and defund the FCC so it can’t enforce them. This has included an endless number of House “fact-finding” hearings that usually involve using discredited ISP data to claim the rules are demolishing the Internet. Of course the opposite appears to be true; network investment (at least in competitive areas) continues undaunted, and the rules have actually helped stop a lot of the anti-competitive shenanigans that were occurring on the streaming video front.
In addition to a parade of pointless, taxpayer-funded hearings, telecom’s Congressional allies have spent months now trying to bury net neutrality rule-killing riders in an upcoming spending bill. The riders range in function from saddling the FCC with layers of often pointless new reporting requirements (out of a wink wink “love of transparency”), to prohibiting the FCC from enforcing the net neutrality rules until the telecom industry lawsuit is settled sometime next year.
And while all-too-many Silicon Valley companies and industry giants (**Google, cough**) remain mute and useless when it comes to publicly protecting net neutrality, a group of tech companies have written a letter to House and Senate leadership (pdf), urging them to keep their sneaky mouse print to themselves:
“We are writing to urge you to refrain from including riders relating to net neutrality and the Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Order in the upcoming omnibus spending legislation…Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee rushed to pass three net neutrality related riders, Sections 628630. After the House’s action, several technology companies met with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to share how these riders are harmful to innovation and the thriving startup culture in the U.S.”
The companies, which range from Kickstarter and Tumblr to Level 3 and Etsy, proceed to urge Congress to handle their grievances with net neutrality in “a more thoughtful and pragmatic approach, rather than in the often chaotic appropriations process.” In other words, at least try to defeat net neutrality via the front door instead of sneaking around the back. The companies’ pressure appears to have helped, as an updated version of the $1.1 trillion “omnibus” budget bill was tabled late in the week with all of the anti-neutrality language removed:
“After months of lobbying, Congress finally released its new budget proposal early Wednesday morning. The anti-net neutrality language does not appear in the 2009-page bill. A final vote is expected Friday, followed by President Obama’s signature…”This is a huge win,” Harold Feld, senior VP of DC-based advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Motherboard. “But the fight is not yet over until this is passed and signed.”
A total dismantling of net neutrality protections remains entirely possible; the most likely route to “victory” for net neutrality opponents is either by winning the industry lawsuit against the FCC, or by winning the 2016 elections and appointing a new FCC boss who’ll immediately get…