This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

There’s been a lot of good news about net neutrality lately. Even though the FCC lost a court case against Comcast, it looked like they had found a “third way” to enforce net neutrality using their existing powers.

Enter Glenn Beck and the rest of the right wing noise machine. Beck and the rest branded net neutrality as “Obama’s Takeover of the Internet”.

Beck’s noisemaking wouldn’t make any difference except for the help of 74 Democrats, who recently sent a letter to the FCC saying that it needs to wait for Congress to act on new broadband legislation. That group isn’t just Blue Dogs — it also includes 7 members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have taken close to $200K from the telecoms this cycle.

Here’s a clear-cut case of Obama going using existing powers to push a moderate, popular, good-government goal. But even this modest effort is killed by mobbed-up members of his own party in Congress, acting against the interests of their own constituency, and in the interests of an oligopoly.

I’ve included the letter after the break. If you read this paean to private investment that might dry up under net neutrality, keep in mind that providing Internet access is the most profitable activity undertaken by cable companies. And, if you see your Member of Congress on the signers list, you might want to let them know how you feel.

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We are writing to reinforce the strong bipartisan consensus among policymakers, industry participants, and analysts that the success of the broadband marketplace stems from policies that encourage competition, private investment, and legal certainty. The regulatory framework first adopted in 1998 by the Clinton Administration’s FCC has resulted in broadband industry infrastructure investment of approximately $60 billion per year. In the last decade, multiple providers and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ have brought high speed connections to 95 percent of U.S. households where two-thirds of Americans now access the Internet through broadband at home.

Still, much work remains to be done. According to the National Broadband Plan, 14 million Americans lack broadband access altogether, many underserved areas need more robust broadband facilities, and both wired and wireless broadband services require increasing speeds. As the Plan notes, that work will require as much as $350 billion in additional private investment. Generating those enormous sums from industry, and the good-paying jobs they produce, will require a continued commitment to the stable regulatory environment that has existed for the last dozen years.

Because of this, we have serious concerns about the proposed new regulatory framework for broadband and the Internet. The expanded FCC jurisdiction over broadband that has been proposed and the manner in which it would be implemented are unprecedented and create regulatory uncertainty. The controversy surrounding that approach will likely serve as a distraction from what should be our Nation’s foremost communications priority: bringing broadband to every corner of America, getting every American online, and providing the high speed connections needed to realize the promises of telemedicine, distance learning, and other forms of consumer empowerment.

The continued deployment and adoption of broadband, the growing importance of the Internet to our constituents, and the significant contributions this will make to our economy should be the FCC’s primary focus right now. The uncertainty this proposal creates will jeopardize jobs and deter needed investment for years to come. The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband service is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress. We urge you not to move forward with a proposal that undermines critically important investment in broadband and the jobs that come with it.

Thank you for your attention to this letter, and we look forward to working with you in a constructive way to address these matters.


Rep. Gene Green

Rep. John Adler
Rep. Jason Altmire
Rep. Michael Arcuri
Rep. Joe Baca
Rep. John Barrow
Rep. Tim Bishop
Rep. Sanford Bishop
Rep. Dan Boren
Rep. Leonard Boswell
Rep. Allen Boyd
Rep. Robert Brady
Rep. Bobby Bright
Rep. Corrine Brown
Rep. G.K. Butterfield
Rep. Dennis Cardoza
Rep. Russ Carnahan
Rep. Christopher Carney
Rep. Travis Childers
Rep. Yvette Clarke
Rep. William Lacy Clay
Rep. Jim Costa
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Henry Cuellar
Rep. Elijah Cummings
Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper
Rep. Lincoln Davis
Rep. Steve Driehaus
Rep. Chaka Fattah
Rep. Marcia Fudge
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Rep. Charles Gonzalez
Rep. Al Green
Rep. Debbie Halvorson
Rep. Alcee Hastings
Rep. Baron Hill
Rep. Ruben Hinojosa
Rep. Tim Holden
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick
Rep. Suzanne Kosmas
Rep. Frank Kratovil
Rep. Rick Larsen
Rep. Dan Maffei
Rep. Michael McMahon
Rep. Gregory Meeks
Rep. Charlie Melancon
Rep. Walt Minnick
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Scott Murphy
Rep. Glenn Nye
Rep. Solomon Ortiz
Rep. Bill Owens
Rep. Ed Pastor

31 replies
  1. 1

    This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but with QoS.

  2. 2

    well, I’m thinking that can’t be the entire list, because my worthless democratic rep Heath Shuler isn’t on it. (The list is alphabetical by last name and ends at ‘P’). And Heath Shuler salivates when there’s an opportunity to punch hippies. He’s a former Tennessee football player so it comes naturally to him.

  3. 3
    mistermix says:

    @lonesomerobot: Sorry, that copy of the letter was from some teaparty blog. I can’t find the original anywhere.

  4. 4
    Michael D. says:

    None of the Congresscritters around my area seem to be on the list. Cool.

  5. 5
    c u n d gulag says:

    If it were not for the internet, Cable TV as we know it, might no longer exist. The original business model was dying.
    Road Runner, or whatever name a cable company’s high speed internet access is branded as, saved the cable companies. I worked in the industry most of my life, and I know the profit margins. They are HUGE!
    And, as usual, cable TV exec’s want more profit on the GREATEST profit-maker they ever had! These short-sighted pigs are pretty close to oil-exec’s in greed and idiocy.
    I got out. I couldn’t stand working there another minute. Look at your TV. Look at the TOTAL SHIT that’s on broadcast and cable TV!
    Now, look at the great access you and I have to the internet.
    BTW – the US lags far behind the rest of the industrialized world as far as high speed internet access. Cable TV exec’s, and their paid-for members of Congress, would have you on the internet version of two Dixie-cups and a string, if we allow them to.
    The sole reason we’re not a total 1984 nation is the internet.
    LOST… Lost… lost…

  6. 6
    Keith G says:

    The brain trust over at Reason are sure the FCC want to take over America:

    The FCC promises it doesn’t have any intention of controlling Internet content, only of making access fair. But empowered with the ability to regulate the flow of online traffic, it offers a semantic, not substantive, excuse for a power grab.

    My goodness.

  7. 7

    @mistermix: s’ok, I was just taking the opportunity to make sure Heath Shuler’s name was included, because I would be legitimately surprised if he weren’t. It sucks that I have a democrat as a rep and he almost habitually doesn’t represent me.

  8. 8
    Dan says:

    Somehow this is Obama’s fault. There’s a dust covered Bully Pulpit lurking about….I just know it.

  9. 9
    JD Rhoades says:

    We have come to the point where every single regulation, or legislation of any kind, is described as a “government takeover of x”. We’ve already seen it with the watered down version of financial reform. I’m willing to bet that, in the wake of the oil spill,any attempt to shake up oil industry regulation will become a “politically motivated attempt to use this disaster to engineer a government takeover of the oil industry.”

  10. 10
    Mudge says:

    I wonder if any of them knows how to use an ATM.

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    @JD Rhoades: politically motivated attempt to use this disaster to engineer a government takeover

    Well, they use this for any disaster.

    But especially the ones caused by lack of regulation.

  12. 12
    robertdsc says:

    Perhaps Obama can nuke the nation on his own hook. We’re too stupid to survive. /weep

  13. 13
    RSR says:

    That’s only about 50 or so members? Is there a full list somewhere?

  14. 14
    Mr B says:

    Is there any “proof” of this: “providing Internet access is the most profitable activity undertaken by cable companies”. Not that I don’t believe it, but I’d like to see some numbers.

  15. 15
    azlib says:

    This is incredibly stupid. As an Internet pioneer, it is dismaying how few in Congress understand this issue. Yet another win for the oligarchs.

  16. 16
    PurpleGirl says:

    No one has mentioned his yet, so… Al Gore did not invent the Internet but he got Congress to support its development through DARPA. We, The People have already paid for it through the DoD. We should not be handing it over to private interests. Goddess, don’t these congresscritters know anything at all. How do we educate them on this?

    BTW: DARPA = Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the central research and development organization for the United States Department of Defense) They especially sponsored computer science work.

  17. 17
    WereBear says:

    @PurpleGirl: It is not ignorance. It is indifference.

  18. 18
    PurpleGirl says:

    @WereBear: The Founders are weeping at the indifference.

  19. 19
    akaoni says:

    While I am in full support of Net Neutrality as a concept, I don’t know if we really want to put all our eggs in the FCC’s basket. The FCC has been historically freindly to corporate media interests and their record has been a mixed bag at best in protecting consumer interests.

    I would prefer to see legislation creating a new independent agency to regulate the internet with consumer protection as their number one mandate. You can read the EFF’s take on this subject HERE.

  20. 20
    WereBear says:

    @PurpleGirl: Yes! They would be.

    I think it’s great that President Obama raised so much money with small donations, but really, the answer is to get the money out of the process.

    As long as you need a metric ton of it, there’s going to be bad ways to get it, done by bad, untalented, grifter types who don’t have the guts, charisma, and abilities to do it right.

  21. 21
    RSR says:

    [I thought I posted this link already; maybe the spam filter got it]

    I found a copy of the original letter, but I can’t read all the handwritten signatures:

  22. 22
    mistermix says:

    @Mr B:

    Comcast, for instance, has a profit margin of 55% in video but 70% in phone and 80% for broadband, estimates Bernstein’s Mr. Moffett. The picture is grimmer for Verizon, given its lack of scale. Because the company has so few TV customers, it hasn’t negotiated the kinds of favorable programming deals its cable rivals have. Its profit margins in video are just 25%, according to Mr. Moffett’s estimates. Its phone margins are about the same as Comcast’s.

  23. 23
    PurpleGirl says:

    I got crazy and printed the letter and the signature pages. My congresscritter (Joseph Crowley) isn’t on the list or in the pages of signatures. I plan to call his office later and make comments about this issue and find out about his stance.

  24. 24
    WereBear says:

    And just where the heck is our competition? I was promised competition!

  25. 25
  26. 26
    A. Lurker says:

    Considering that one Presidential candidate had to be taught what Google and what e-mail was a few months before the election (hint: it wasn’t Obama), I’m not surprised that a good portion of our Congress (and for that matter, at least half the supreme court) doesn’t seem to understand the technicalities at work here. A lot of them are too old to understand how the internet actually works, so they just leave that job to the experts…

    …y’know, the experts who give them a lot of campaign cash and then tell them how any form of regulation in their industry is like the Second Coming of Josef Stalin.

    At least my congresswoman isn’t on the list.

  27. 27
    slag says:

    Not to cut into Cole’s petition action or anything, but Bold Progressives offers a petition regarding this issue that I found worth a signature. And the page includes The Daily Show’s John Hodgman explanation of net neutrality, which is one of the best and funniest explanations of the issue I’ve ever seen.

  28. 28
    theignorant says:

    Access to the Internet has ALWAYS been fair. There are only two cases EVER where it was questionable and as stated above, one of them turned out to be untrue.

    FCC needs to stop finding a problem for their Internet take over solution.

    ISPs don’t screw with access because like with any business, the level of service you offer determines the success of your company. THAT’s why Congress is against it. It’s one of the few things they do understand.

  29. 29
    Gregory says:


    BTW: DARPA = Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the central research and development organization for the United States Department of Defense) They especially sponsored computer science work.

    If memory serves me right, the Internet began as a project to create a computer network that could survive a nuclear attack.

  30. 30
    Martin says:

    @akaoni: Well, anytime you put both advocacy and enforcement into the same agency, you’re going to get regulatory capture. Obama is right to split the duties of MMS. He should learn from that model and do it for all similar agencies, including the FCC.

  31. 31

    […] can read the full Rep. Green letter at Balloon Juice. It’s a small step, but if left unchallenged it leaves the door open for further action or […]

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