Home » Net Neutrality » Recent Articles:

Senate Approves Resolution 52-47 to Nullify Net Neutrality Rollback

Phillip Dampier May 16, 2018 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

The Senate approved a resolution on a largely party line vote Wednesday that sends a symbolic message to the FCC it erred when it voted to repeal net neutrality.

The final vote pitted all 49 Democrats against all but three Senate Republicans to condemn the FCC’s decision to rollback the rules, scheduled to take effect in June. The three Republicans that joined the Democrats in favor of preserving net neutrality were Susan Collins from Maine, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, and John Kennedy from Louisiana — the latter two a surprise.

“Today is a monumental day,” said Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) during debate over the resolution. “Today we show the American people who sides with them, and who sides with the powerful special interests and corporate donors who are thriving under this administration.”

The measure faces a much tougher fight in the Republican-dominated House, where it may have trouble even coming up for a vote.

Using the Congressional Review Act, a law that permits Congress to revisit — and reject — decisions by federal agencies within 60 “session days” of their approval, Democrats drew a clear line in favor of net neutrality, which may become an issue in the midterm elections if the Republican-controlled House refuses to bring the measure up for a vote. If the measure passes the House, it will require the signature of President Trump to take effect. That may be unlikely, considering the president once claimed net neutrality was a plot by the Obama Administration to gain control of the internet.

Kennedy explained his vote in favor of net neutrality as an issue of trust.

“You either trust your cable company or you don’t,” Kennedy explained. “If you trust your cable company, you won’t like my vote. Under the 2017 order, a cable company can censor, throttle, or employ fast lanes so long as it discloses. The response from the other side of that is, well, just switch cable companies. But 22% of Louisianans and 19% of all Americans have access to only one internet service provider that can provide the minimum FCC mandated speed. So what are they going to do?”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reiterated his belief net neutrality protections were not needed and would deter investment by cable and telephone companies in their networks, a claim hotly disputed by consumer groups that point to evidence investment rose even after net neutrality took effect.

The issue of keeping the internet free and open remains bipartisan, with wide percentages of Republicans and Democrats in favor of net neutrality. That may put Senate Republicans who voted against the measure and are up for re-election on the hot seat this fall.

NPR:

This issue doesn’t cut along clean party lines, said Steven Kull, who runs the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland and has studied public attitudes on net neutrality. The program’s research has found that majorities of Americans support government-mandated net neutrality protections.

“People are on the Internet a lot and it’s a big part of their daily experience and the prospect that it will be changed in some fundamental way is disturbing to quite a lot of them,” Kull said.

Fear is a great motivator for voters. Senate Democrats believe their resolution that put every Democrat on record in support of net neutrality — and most Republicans on record against it — can turn what was once considered a wonk issue, into a wedge issue this November. “People underestimate the passion of Internet voters, at their peril. They are mad, and they want to know what they can do, and this vote will make things crystal clear,” he said.

As N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Resigns, Telecom-Related Cases Could Stall

Schneiderman

New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned late Monday after four women accused him of physical abuse, causing a political earthquake in Albany and potentially stalling several important telecommunications-related cases that were championed by the Democrat.

The New Yorker magazine published an article late Monday with the accounts of the four women who said Schneiderman subjected them to non-consensual physical violence during romantic encounters.

Schneiderman issued several statements denying he assaulted anyone or took part in non-consensual sex. His resignation announcement said the allegations will effectively prevent him from carrying out his office’s work.

He had been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, including filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, one of the many high-profile men in politics, entertainment and business accused of assaulting women.

Schneiderman was also one of the country’s strongest advocates of holding telecom companies to their agreements. He was actively involved in pursuing the state’s dominant cable company, Charter Communications, for allegedly selling internet speeds his office claimed the company knew it could not deliver, and was more recently investigating Charter for its failure to adequately expand its rural service area to comply with the 2016 merger agreement between Charter, Time Warner Cable and the state’s Public Service Commission.

Schneiderman was elected in 2010 on a platform of pursuing equal justice for all New Yorkers. His website noted, “As the highest ranking law enforcement officer for the State, Schneiderman believes there has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful.”

On Tuesday, the governor announced New York Solicitor Barbara Underwood, also a Democrat, has stepped in to serve as acting attorney general.

Underwood, 73, has been the state Solicitor General since 2007 when she was appointed by then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Schneiderman left her in place after he won election to the attorney general position in 2010. Underwood has no record of being a political advocate and has no intention to run for the position in the fall elections, making her largely a caretaker of the office. Her role has traditionally been to represent the state in appeals cases.

Underwood

Her lack of political intention was cited by Gov. Cuomo in his remarks introducing her as Schneiderman’s replacement.

“She’s an extraordinarily competent woman, so I have no fear in the immediate she will provide good stewardship in the office,” Cuomo said. “She’s a total professional” and the fact she is not running for office means “she will not be playing politics. She’ll just be doing the job.”

“I am honored to serve the people of New York as acting attorney general,” Underwood said in a statement. “The work of this office is critically important. Our office has never been stronger, and this extraordinarily talented, dedicated, and tireless team of public servants will ensure that our work continues without interruption.”

Traditionally, caretaker heads of the Attorney General’s office continue existing cases and rely heavily on staff attorneys and their supervisors to continue litigation. But few observers expect Underwood will break ground on new cases or attempt to shift priorities in the office. Because the next scheduled election for New York’s attorney general is this year, most anticipate Underwood will keep a low profile until the election or the legislature replaces her. Had the governor appointed an acting attorney general with political ambitions, most would have expected an active summer and fall of high profile cases to build a list of accomplishments to promote in the fall campaign.

The last Republican to hold the position, Dennis Vacco (1995-1998), told the press the sudden opening of the office could spark considerable interest among Democrats and Republicans. The Attorney General slot has recently proved to be an important position for anyone considering a run for governor in New York. Both Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo served in this position before being elected to the governor’s office.

Vacco told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle he expects few changes in the office if Underwood remains a caretaker until the next election.

James

“If she is not a candidate for election, I think that she will be much more status quo-oriented,” he said.

But if the state legislature moves to appoint an interim replacement, the individual chosen will very likely have a political interest in winning the office at the next election opportunity. Vacco said that individual may want to put her or his own imprimatur on the office operations, which means the cases pursued in the future will not likely be the same as those chased by Schneiderman. The idea is “put[ting] distance between yourself and Schneiderman.”

There are multiple Democrats actively considering or who have been mentioned as possible candidates for the position this week:

NY City Public Advocate Letitia James: Favored by Gov. Cuomo, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, James is no pushover for cable companies. James has led the charge against Charter Communications’ performance in Manhattan and has held Verizon’s feet to the fire over their slow deployment of FiOS in New York’s largest city.

Former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara: Has the support of several prominent admirers in New York and Washington, D.C. His indefatigable prosecution of public corruption cases has him feared in some circles and admired in others. He is also a fierce critic of the president. Consumer groups are uncertain what types of cases would get his attention if he were to win the position.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, the former Nassau County district attorney is actively mentioned as a candidate, as is Queens state Sen. Michael Gianaris, and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout. Teachout has been actively involved in promoting broadband issues including net neutrality. Another person who has been approached by Democratic officials to weigh a possible run is Ben Lawsky, the former superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services and a former federal prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.

Among members of the state legislature, who could quickly appoint a replacement until the fall election, James appears to be the current leading candidate. James would be New York’s first African-American attorney general, and would represent another instance of a female replacing a disgraced male official. She declined comment about her interest in the position.

On the Republican side, lawyer Manny Alicandro is running for the nomination for attorney general. His candidacy is likely to be challenging, given the Democratic enrollment advantage in New York and a mid-term election likely to drive more Democrats to the polls.

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly Violated Hatch Act Advocating for Trump Reelection

Phillip Dampier May 2, 2018 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

O’Rielly

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly violated the Hatch Act while speaking at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference in February, when he appealed to the audience to reelect President Donald Trump to a second term of office, ruled the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

“Commissioner O’Rielly advocated for the reelection of President Trump in his official capacity as FCC Commissioner,” wrote Erica S. Hamrick, deputy chief of the Hatch Act Unit, in a warning letter. “Therefore, he violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect an election. Although OSC has decided to issue a warning letter in this instance, OSC has advised Commissioner O’Rielly that if in the future he engages in prohibited political activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act, we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 1215.”

The Hatch Act was passed to stop partisan political activities of federal executive branch employees. Only the Vice-President and President are exempt. Partisan political activity or interfering or involving oneself in political activity while serving in an official capacity or authority is not appropriate. O’Rielly was found culpable because he appeared at the CPAC event as a FCC Commissioner, not a private citizen.

At one point during a panel discussion entitled, “To Infinity and Beyond: How the FCC is Paving the Way for Innovation,” O’Rielly was asked about the stark policy differences at the FCC between the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had established a busy agenda at the time, primarily revoking Obama era policies and rules. The panel’s moderator wanted to know “what can we do to avoid this regulatory ping-pong every time there is a new election.”

It was O’Rielly’s response that violated federal law:

“I think what we can do is make sure as conservatives that we elect good people to both the House, the Senate, and make sure that President Trump gets reelected. But there’s another thing you can do. We’re going to have a fight over the Obama internet rules in the next couple months in the U.S. Senate. And that’s going to matter and that vote matters, and so making sure people take the right course on that really does affect what policies we’re able to keep in place moving forward. So we can certainly use everyone’s help along those lines.”

O’Rielly defended his actions before the OSC, claiming he was not advocating for President Trump’s reelection but instead simply answering the question asked, which he thought to be on the topic of net neutrality and how to prevent a new administration from restoring Obama-era policies.

“But Commissioner O’Rielly did in fact have an answer to the moderator’s question that was not partisan – legislative action by the Senate – which he expressed only after suggesting the solution was to ‘make sure President Trump gets reelected,'” Hamrick wrote.

“I appreciate that OSC recognized that the statement in question was part of an off-the-cuff, unrehearsed response to an impromptu question, and that they found this resolution to be the appropriate consequence,” O’Rielly said in response to Hamrick’s ruling. “While I am disappointed and disagree that my offhand remark was determined to be a violation, I take their warning letter seriously.”

Sinclair Broadcasting Preparing Support for Marsha Blackburn’s (R-AT&T) Tenn. Senate Race

Blackburn

One of the telecom industry’s most notorious favorites – Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-AT&T), is running for departing Sen. Bob Corker’s seat in the U.S. Senate, and she will enjoy extra support from Sinclair-owned television stations across the state of Tennessee, sometimes whether those stations want to support her candidacy or not.

Blackburn has a long history supporting the corporate agendas of AT&T and Comcast, pushing for deregulation, blocks on community-owned broadband networks, and opposition to net neutrality. She is the telecom industry’s most reliable member of Congress, willing to introduce new legislation custom-written by industry lobbyists. The Tennessee Tribune noted that Blackburn’s lackluster performance in Congress as little more than an “errand boy” was foreshadowed by Blackburn herself in each of her political races:

During political events when Blackburn first ran for Congress, she said she wanted the job so she could support George W. Bush’s agenda. Later it was to fight Barrack Obama. Now, as Blackburn spokesperson Andrea Bozek told the Associated Press, “We want to ensure President Trump has a reliable vote in the U.S. Senate.”

The AP’s Feb. 14 story confirms the congressman’s consistent posture displayed in person and other ways. She’s spoken of the “leadership” she’s followed. Blackburn’s also behaved like loyal party members by holding private, invited-guests-only sessions, usually for fundraising. In recent months, she excluded the press from a program on telecommunications.

Blackburn has boldly said she’s doing what the people tell her they want. Now, she wants to be a U.S. senator.

Polls in Tennessee show Blackburn trailing against moderate Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor. That has her corporate allies worried, particularly in the telecommunications and broadcasting business.

Baltimore-area based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or runs more than 200 television stations around the United States, has been under fire for quietly inserting conservative and pro-Trump stories into the local newscasts of the stations it programs, without disclosing those stories have a deliberate spin defending the Trump Administration or various conservative causes favored by Sinclair Broadcasting’s executives. In March, Deadspin produced a video showing uncomfortable local newscasters across the country forced to read a scripted Sinclair promotion attacking the media for “fake news” — a corporate campaign that quickly won praise from President Donald Trump and scorn by media watchdog groups and many viewers.

Sinclair is the only station owner in the country that requires its stations to insert pre-produced news stories and commentaries it calls “must-runs” that do not always tell viewers in full disclosure  those segments and news stories were produced by Sinclair’s corporate owners from studios in Maryland. This fall, Sinclair plans to ramp up coverage of the 2018 mid-term elections with recently hired reporters, one who formerly worked for the Russian government-owned RT propaganda outlet, to produce political stories that will be required to air by Sinclair’s local stations nationwide. In fact, Sinclair has hundreds of job listings on help-wanted websites.

Among Sinclair’s top priorities for the fall is getting Rep. Blackburn installed in the U.S. Senate. No elected official has received greater support from Sinclair’s PAC than Blackburn. According to Poyntor, Blackburn has already received $4,500 from Sinclair this year. She is the current chair of the House Communications and Technology subcommittee, which oversees the FCC, the same agency headed by Chairman Ajit Pai that has bent over backwards for Sinclair and its efforts to acquire additional stations, including some of the biggest outlets in the country currently owned by Tribune Broadcasting. Pai is now under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for possible collusion with Sinclair.

The New York Times’ investigation into the close relationship between Sinclair and Pai has been strengthened with evidence Pai and his staff members have frequently met and corresponded with Sinclair executives several times, usually coinciding with agenda items at the telecommunications regulator that have an impact on Sinclair’s business. The meetings, including one with Sinclair’s executive chairman just days before Pai was appointed to head the FCC by President Trump, have raised eyebrows among some members of Congress, but not Rep. Blackburn.

Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former FCC official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules, the Times reported. Pai’s talking points about relaxing media ownership rules were suspiciously nearly identical to the language the lobbyist provided the agency promoting the rules change that will allow Sinclair to grow even larger.

Sinclair’s executives need Blackburn’s support to keep Congress in check as the company grows its station count well above long-standing federal station ownership caps that Pai has systematically sought to relax. Putting her in the U.S. Senate could be critical to protect Sinclair, especially if Republicans lose control of the U.S. House of Representatives in this year’s mid-term elections.

In January, Sinclair mailed letters to its station’s managers urging they quietly participate in Sinclair’s PAC, asking each to contribute up to $5,000. Sinclair will spend that money supporting candidates like Blackburn. A copy of the letter was obtained by FTVLive.

You are receiving this letter because you are eligible to participate in the Sinclair Political Action Committee (PAC), our fund that supports candidates for Congress who can influence the future of broadcasting. The Federal Election Commission strictly defines who may participate, and not everyone in the company meets these qualifications, so please do not forward this letter to anyone.

[…] Since the change in administration last year, we now have an FCC chairman who appreciates the important role of local broadcasting enough to launch a number of politically unpopular deregulatory initiatives necessary to ensure the future of our industry. In response, there have been Congressional efforts to counter those actions, such as a legislative proposal to eliminate the UHF discount, which will prevent any broadcaster from meaningful growth in the future. […] We need allies in Congress who understand the role of local television  and who are willing to defend it in today’s ever-changing landscape.

Corporate contributions to federal candidates are prohibited by law, but our PAC is a legally acceptable way for eligible Sinclair employees to make our collective voice heard in the electoral process.

In addition to direct financial support, Sinclair is expected to produce additional news stories and commentaries it will force-air on its stations that echo the themes and views of the candidates the company supports. Sinclair owns five stations in Nashville and Chattanooga and will own a sixth in Memphis if the FCC approves Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune-owned television stations.

Sinclair’s Tennessee stations are already loaded with Sinclair’s editorials and slanted news coverage pieces that are required to air as part of the stations’ local newscasts. But some stations also air extra weekly news shows that swing to the right, including one hosted by conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who bought television stations through his entity Howard Stirk Holdings, using Sinclair’s money and contracts with Sinclair to run “his” stations.

WTVC (NewsChannel 9) and WFLI (The CW) in Chattanooga

WZTV (Fox 17), WUXP (My30), and WNAB (CW58) in Nashville

  • Sinclair-owned WZTV (Fox 17) also regularly airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including nationally produced news packages, fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” updates, and the weekly show Full Measure.
  • Sinclair-owned WUXP (My30) shares a main studio address with Fox 17 and re-airs at least some of Fox 17’s local news programming.
  • Nashville Broadcasting-owned WNAB (The CW58) “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” and also shares a main studio address with Fox 17 and My30. It does not appear to regularly air news programming.

Coming soon: WREG (News Channel 3) in Memphis

  • WREG (News Channel 3) in Memphis is currently owned by Tribune Media but will soon be owned by Sinclair if the company’s pending acquisition of up to 42 Tribune stations is approved.

(programming details courtesy of Media Matters)

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) Introduces Companion Bill for FAKE Net Neutrality

Sen. Kennedy (R-La.)

Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced a companion bill that broadly copies an industry-favoring, fake net neutrality protection bill introduced last year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

The Open Internet Preservation Act is essentially the Senate version of Blackburn’s House bill, bringing along all the major flaws and industry favoritism one expects from Blackburn, a notorious defender of large telephone and cable companies and a favorite target for their campaign contributions.

Blackburn was naturally delighted.

“Sen. Kennedy brings leadership and focus to this discussion of preserving a free and open internet,” Blackburn said in a statement. ” I appreciate his work and his attention to this issue.  Title II 1930s era regulation was a heavy-handed approach that would stifle innovation and investment. This legislation will go a long way toward achieving the goal of protecting consumers.”

Kennedy made sweeping claims about the power of his bill to protect consumers — power not actually in his bill.

“Some cable companies and content providers aren’t going to be happy with this bill because it prohibits them from blocking and throttling web content,” Kennedy said in a statement. “They won’t be able to micromanage your web surfing or punish you for downloading 50 movies each month. This bill strikes a compromise that benefits the consumer.”

Except it won’t. We expect no cable company will oppose a measure that is based largely on the recommendations from the cable industry itself. Nothing in the bill would prohibit Comcast, AT&T, or other companies from “punishing” you for downloading 50 movies each month with a much higher bill as a result of exceeding your data cap and facing punitive overlimit fees.

Read Stop the Cap!’s detailed analysis of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s net neutrality bill.

Even Kennedy admits his bill isn’t perfect, and considering it is based on a bill introduced by Rep. Blackburn that we analyzed last year, Kennedy is being modest.

“If the Democrats are serious about this issue and finding a permanent solution, then they should come to the table and work with me and Rep. Blackburn on these bills,” said Kennedy. “Does this bill resolve every issue in the net neutrality debate? No, it doesn’t. It’s not a silver bullet. But it’s a good start.”

It’s actually a very bad start, in our view. The industry would like to declare the net neutrality issue ‘settled’ with the passage of a bill it effectively wrote itself.

We urge readers to vehemently oppose both measures, which represent net neutrality in name-only. The best way to find a permanent solution for preserving real net neutrality will come at the next election, when voters can replace lawmakers that represent the interests of big telecom companies over those of their constituents. Allowing either fake net neutrality measure to proceed will make it exponentially more difficult to raise the issue in the future.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • EJ: Josh you are correct as of right now. Without unlimited and/or very high (1TB) caps 4g/5g is nothing more then competition for satellite internet. We ...
  • Dylan: Got that right!...
  • Gayle Conversion: My name is Gayle Anne Wehner-Foglesong.To McAdams! Watch your mouth! You do not blame anyone but yourself. I know everything and I want my money now! ...
  • Michael sherwood: Spectrum charged me an overdue amount and I haven't even been with them for a month...
  • Josh: He’s not wrong, for once. The cell phone stuff keeps blathering s out speeds and how great it is, then can’t actuslly provide unlimited service or an...
  • Dylan: Yeah, Spectrum definitely needs this. I know here in New York, we have National Grid as our electric and gas provider and they definitely tell you abo...
  • FRED HALL: I wish Spectrum had this (and it was accurate). Whenever there's an outage, their tech support is either too stupid or too lazy to let the customer r...
  • Bob61571: TDS Telecom is a sub of Telephone & Data Systems(TDS). US Cellular is also a sub of TDS. TDS Telecom owns a number of smaller small town/rural t...
  • D H: If you want to really feature someone serious for the Governorship. I would suggest Larry Sharpe instead who is actually doing a grassroots campaign....
  • David: Well, I dropped them for earthlink DSL which is slower and buggier but I don't regret it since I don't accept getting pushed around. If earthlink keep...
  • baboonie: I glad that pai did what he did and this go stopped. That would of been to much power in sinclairs hands, But everybody knows the only reason pai did ...
  • David: In order to have those 'revenue enhancers' opportunities.. they would have to have more customers. Which are not coming to Frontiers services. The bi...

Your Account: