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AT&T’s ‘Pay for Play’ Payments to Donald Trump’s Lawyer May Have Been as High as $600,000

Phillip Dampier May 9, 2018 AT&T, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Earlier press accounts that AT&T paid $200,000 to President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for “consulting work” was actually closer to $600,000, according to a source talking to Reuters on Wednesday.

AT&T acknowledged on Tuesday it paid $200,000 to Cohen-owned Essential Consultants, a limited liability shell company, claiming it was to help the telecom company gain “insights” into the Trump Administration at the same time it was lobbying to win federal approval of its merger with Time Warner, Inc., and was seeking regulatory favors on issues including net neutrality, broadband regulation, pole attachment fees, municipal broadband, and decommissioning its rural landline network.

The first revelations about AT&T’s payment to the same company used to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels came from her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who released detailed information about payments from AT&T, a pharmaceutical company, and a firm with direct ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a close confidante of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reuters reports it was unclear how Avenatti knew about those payments, but his information was detailed and partly confirmed by AT&T, noting payments of $50,000 in October-December, 2017 and one additional payment in January, 2018 of $50,000 — totaling $200,000.

Cohen

However, the contract was for a year, the source told Reuters, meaning AT&T likely paid more than $200,000 to Cohen’s company. A full year contract for $50,000 per month would total $600,000. The source declined to give a total for the payments made by AT&T to Cohen’s company.

It is not known what happened to the money AT&T paid Cohen, but there is speculation the president could have known about the payments and seen them as a goodwill gesture as AT&T battles with the Administration’s Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission over its $85 billion merger deal and accusations it speed-throttled wireless customers who exceeded an arbitrary usage allowance.

AT&T today released a company-wide letter to employees explaining its position on the matter:

From: T Now
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 12:10 PM
Subject: Perspective on the news

To: All U.S. AT&T employees

Late yesterday, many media outlets reported that in 2017, AT&T hired Michael Cohen, a former lawyer with the Trump Organization. We want you to know the facts.

In early 2017, as President Trump was taking office, we hired several consultants to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement. Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new Presidential Administration, and we have done so in previous Administrations, as well.

Cohen was one of those consultants. Cohen did no legal or lobbying work for us, and our contract with Cohen expired at the end of its term in December 2017. It was not until the following month in January 2018 that the media first reported, and AT&T first became aware of, the current controversy surrounding Cohen.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said at a press conference that the Judiciary Committee should review the payments AT&T and other companies made to Cohen.

Blumenthal speculated those payments “may well have been used to influence the president of the United States, using Michael Cohen and his shell company as a conduit.”

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)

AT&T Bribed Okla. Regulator to Keep Excess Revenue, But State Still Won’t Seek $16 Billion in Refunds

Phillip Dampier March 21, 2018 AT&T, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Video No Comments

AT&T successfully bribed a Oklahoma telecom regulator to allow the phone company to keep at least $30 million annually in excess revenue. Despite the fact two key players in the bribery scandal were eventually sent to federal prison, Oklahoma’s state government has done all it can to protect AT&T. At issue is up to $16 billion in refunds and damages payable by AT&T — approximately $15,000 per customer, that the state claims would not be in the public interest. Now a consumer group — Oklahomans Against Bribery — is taking its case for refunds to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Remarkably, AT&T has remained so confident of its case and close relationship with Oklahoma state officials, the company drew gasps in a 2015 hearing after its attorney argued even bribed votes count at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the state’s telecommunications regulator, and the Commission has no jurisdiction to tell AT&T to make things right with Oklahoma ratepayers.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission: “Perjury Palace”

The notorious scandal began with the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 during the Reagan Administration. Echoing recent tax changes passed during the Trump Administration, Republicans argued that reduced taxes would cut the burden on corporations by changing the way those taxes were calculated, with savings trickling down to individual taxpayers. Under Oklahoma law, when a regulated utility wins a tax break, so should ratepayers in the form of lower rates. In June, 1987 the OCC ordered utilities including Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (today doing business as AT&T) to be prepared to refund the excess revenue that came as a result of the tax cut.

Only AT&T had no serious intention of refunding the money to its customers. Investigators claimed the company’s senior Oklahoma executives conspired with at least one of their attorneys to bribe Corporation Commissioner Bob Hopkins with a $10,000 payment in return for his vote allowing AT&T to “invest” the excess money in network upgrades. AT&T got its wish in a 2-1 vote. For almost 30 years, the lone dissenter in that vote, Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, has led the charge to reopen the case and get consumers a long overdue refund.

In 1988, when he was running for a seat on the Corporation Commission, Anthony said he was warned he would not be a good fit.

“A friend and Crowe and Dunlevy attorney advised me that someone like me should not run for election to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, calling it the ‘perjury palace,'” Anthony wrote in a 2016 dissent opinion of the rate case.

Even before Anthony won his seat on the Commission, the bribery attempts began, often involving a high-powered utility lawyer named William Anderson, hired by SBC/AT&T:

“My first introduction to this entire episode was in about the last six weeks of my campaign….I was sent word that some people wanted to meet me. Well, I was running a campaign so I was happy to meet people interested.

“So, I went over to Mr. [William] Anderson’s office, and we had a nice chat. He’s…an authority on utility regulation. We had a nice little chat, and he handed me an envelope, and I put it in my pocket. And I remember driving home, not at the first stop light, but at the second stop light, I opened up the envelope and there were 10 $100 dollar bills in it, with a little slip of paper in one person’s handwriting that had five names written on it. Now, I was supposed to assume that that was five people [who] contributed $200 apiece, and that I didn’t have to report it by name.

“I told this story to a high school friend of mine who just happened to be the U.S. Attorney at the time. And before I told him the name of the person, he said, ‘Was that Bill Anderson?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s who that was.’ And he said, ‘Well, Bob, we’ve been interested in his activities for a long period of time, but it’s awfully difficult to get inside information.’ And I said, ‘If he continues to have dealings with me, I’ll keep you posted.'”

It wasn’t long before Anthony associated Anderson’s presence with pocketfuls of cash waiting to fall on the table:

“I remember the time he had 50 $100 dollar bills. And I said, ‘You know I grew up in the business world, and we counted money when it came in.’ And so he’d chuckle, and then I’d start counting it out, 1-2-3-4, and then it would get up to 45-46-47-48-49-50! And, uh, he had a funny little thing he’d like to say,…’Well, if there was one extra, I’d a’ jumped up there and grabbed it.’ And we’d chuckle about that.

“Then he’d go on and explain about what was expected for the money. The definition of bribery, out of Black’s Law Dictionary, includes a quid pro quo. If he just gives me a gift that’s not necessarily a bribe. But, if he does, like he did, say, ‘You know, these companies I represent, they expect to make a profit. They expect to be in business a long time. And we’re not going to bother you every day, but someday there will be some officer of one of the companies I represent, and we’ll need an appointment, and we’d expect for you to give us an appointment.’

“Well, a certain amount of this is a wink and a nod, too. But, there was no doubt in our minds what was going on. Very clearly what was happening was people were giving me a large number of hundred dollar bills because they were buying access, and they were buying influence. And those words were even used in conversations that I had with utility executives.

“So my high school friend arranged for me to meet him in his US Attorney’s office, and there were two top FBI agents from the city who were there. And I agreed to keep them informed if activities continued.

“And Mr. Anderson called, and he called again, and he wanted to establish a relationship. And eventually they got recording equipment put in my office, and he continued his activity.”

Anthony recounted how utility lobbyists and lawyers introduced themselves, almost always around the issue of money.

“You know, sometimes I get money for the commissioners,” one lawyer told Anthony, adding some lawyers and lobbyists frequently offer $300 or $400 in “walking around money.” Those lobbying Anthony also reminded him they were aware of his campaign deficit, and despite being illegal, one offered to bundle a $10,000 contribution to help retire his debt.

The SBC/AT&T Bribery Case

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh (right) presenting Commissioner Anthony (left) with the Louis E. Peters Memorial Service Award in 1995. (Image courtesy: Bob Anthony)

The prospect of AT&T getting to keep at least $30 million in excess revenue a year (later revised upwards in an independent audit to $120 million annually) meant going the extra mile with commissioners to assure a vote in AT&T’s favor. By this time, Anthony had volunteered to serve as a FBI informant and had turned over any money he received improperly to the government. Federal investigators also obtained wiretap warrants, which caught telephone company executives discussing the bribe they didn’t want to know about.

“Do it and don’t let me know how you do it,” Oklahoma SBC/AT&T division president Royce Caldwell is heard saying on one wiretap.

Anthony argues there is substantial evidence that AT&T’s bribery is only a part of a much broader conspiracy involving a variety of utilities who were routinely bribing regulators to win votes at the OCC. But the AT&T case was special because of the amount of money involved.

“Multiple executives and attorneys were involved,” he said. A judge that later reviewed the case called the money given to Anthony, “no more or no less than an effort to have him look with favor on their pending rate matters.”

Other executives named by Anthony in the case were David Miller, SBC’s vice president in Oklahoma for governmental and regulation affairs and SBC attorneys William Free and Glen Glass.

In a sworn affidavit, Anthony cited a FBI wiretapped conversation between Anderson and Free in which Anderson said, “[Glen] Glass knew the whole deal. We all knew. They all knew we were trying to work something.”

What they apparently knew is that their attorney, Mr. Anderson, had found OCC Commissioner Robert Hopkins, a grateful recipient of $10,000 in telephone company bribe money, and the critical second vote in favor of AT&T being allowed to keep its excess revenue.

In 1994, a federal grand jury indicted Anderson and Hopkins for illegal bribery and conspiracy charges. Both were found guilty in late 1994 and sentenced to federal prison.

The Bribery Worked: AT&T Still Benefits Today from Rigged Vote That Was Never Overturned

Pruitt

Despite convictions, jail time, and clear and convincing evidence of a corrupted regulatory process, the order granting AT&T permission to keep the money was never overturned, despite repeated efforts by Anthony to throw out the tainted vote.

Since the late 1980s, AT&T has collected an estimated $16 billion in excess charges from Oklahoma ratepayers, including interest. But every effort to see that money returned to Oklahoma consumers and businesses has met a roadblock of resistance from AT&T, the Oklahoma state government, and regulatory agencies who call the case “ancient history” and “closed for further debate.”

The most serious effort to overturn the OCC’s original vote came in 2015-2016, when a coalition of consumers, business leaders, and philanthropists teamed up to convince the OCC and the courts they should toss out the tainted vote. They ran head-on into then Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (today the head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Trump Administration.)

Pruitt had been a staunch defender and supporter of AT&T in his role as Attorney General. In 2014, shortly after Pruitt dismissed another challenge about excess revenue in favor of AT&T, the phone company and its executives richly rewarded Pruitt’s campaign coffers with $43,500 — 44.5% of all donations for the summer and fall 2014 period. Pruitt ran unopposed in 2014.

Pruitt’s office renewed opposition to those challenging AT&T once again in 2015:

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has maintained the position that the PUD 260 matter should not be reopened for nearly 20 years. As Attorney General Drew Edmondson stated to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1997, and again in 2010, “[t]he public interest would not be served by reopening an evidentiary hearing occurring nearly [two] decade[s] ago. The resources of the Commission and of the parties could be better utilized than by rehashing ‘ancient history.’ Accordingly, a rehearing of this cause is not in the best interests of [Southwestern Bell Telephone]’s customers and is not advocated by the Attorney General.”

Independent news site NonDoc took issue with Pruitt’s premise:

How can Pruitt expect his position on PUD 260 to ring true with the public considering his lengthy and documented history of defending major corporate interests in Oklahoma?

For a politician so well-versed in the art of pandering — whose campaign website asks voters to “Help Scott protect the citizens of Oklahoma” — how does the potential reimbursement of an estimated $15,000 for every qualifying AT&T customer in the state not serve their “best interests?”

Whose best interest is really protected by refusing to re-examine a corrupt moment in Oklahoma’s political history?

The answer likely lies somewhere in the political realities of our time. When corporations are considered people, it’s corporate dollars that count, especially when most actual people can’t be bothered to get out and vote.

In 2016, the OCC dismissed yet another attempt to revisit the issue, this time with prejudice, telling the group and consumers across Oklahoma the issue cannot be litigated ever again.

Headed for the U.S. Supreme Court

After being uniformly rejected by Oklahoma’s conservative politicians and judiciary, the group of citizens fighting to get the original late 1980s ruling overturned and force refunds for customers is taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

Oklahomans Against Bribery continues to believe the law is on their side, despite arguments from AT&T’s attorneys that even bribery-tainted votes count.

“We took on this fight when the Attorney General stopped representing Oklahoma ratepayers and started defending AT&T,” said bribery refund applicant and Nichols Hills Mayor Sody Clements. “We hoped the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court would finally do the right thing – declare once and for all that bribed votes don’t count in this state, and give the billions stolen by AT&T back to the ratepayers.  Unfortunately everyone has passed the buck and claimed it’s someone else’s problem to fix. We believe the buck will stop at the United States Supreme Court.”

Their petition for writ of certiorari, filed March 19, argues their “right to petition” under the First Amendment was violated when the OCC dismissed their bribery refund application “with prejudice,” prohibiting them from ever raising the issue again.

“Denying citizens the right to further petition their legislative bodies on legislative matters – especially matters involving proven public corruption – threatens and undermines our very republican form of government,” the petition argues. “The high importance of this case to the public interest, both from a monetary standpoint and from the standpoint of harm done – now and in the future – to ‘the good order of society,’ warrants review.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the petition before the end of its term in early summer 2018.

Even bribed votes still count at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, argues AT&T’s attorneys. This overview looks at the AT&T Bribery Case still on appeal. (5:46)

Wireless Industry Claims Removing Regulatory Hurdles Will Save $1.6 Billion on 5G Deployment

Accenture’s six-page analysis.

CTIA, America’s largest wireless industry trade group and lobbyist, commissioned a research consultant to produce a six-page analysis that unsurprisingly concludes stripping some oversight responsibilities regarding cell tower placement would reduce the cost to deploy 5G wireless small cells by as much as $1.6 billion over the next nine years.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering industry-friendly proposals that would “streamline” and “modernize” the historic and environmental regulatory requirements for wireless deployments, exclude small cells from certain federal regulatory reviews, and put a strict limit on completing environmental impact reviews on new tower and antenna installations or else they will be automatically approved.

The Accenture analysis, produced at the request of CTIA, claims that it will cost an average of $9,730 for each 5G small cell regulatory review. But the report also states only 28-29% of installations will face this type of review. The CTIA implies it is much worse than that in its new 30-second ad complaining about regulatory burdens. That ad suggests 5G small cell “approval can take a couple of years.”

As the FCC ponders further deregulation of cell tower and antenna placement, wireless industry players are sharing their horror stories with the FCC to strengthen the agency’s likely  view that installation rules and oversight should be relaxed.

In January, Sprint complained it faced a demand to pay a $90,000 “tribal review fee” for six tower upgrades in the Chicago area. The company claims the towers were located in historic preservation areas, but not in areas of tribal significance. Sprint added in its letter to the FCC it only planned to install additional antenna equipment at those tower sites to increase capacity, not erect new towers.

The wireless industry is also lobbying to get cut-rate access to public infrastructure like street lights, on which it eventually plans to place 5G network equipment.

In states like California, AT&T has pushed hard for new legislation that would mandate cities and counties to give the company open access to public infrastructure in public rights-of-way or utility easements. In a 2017 bill before the California Senate, companies like AT&T would face a fee limit of $100-850 per small cell per year, indexed for inflation,

With multiple wireless companies prepared to enter the 5G marketplace, utility poles could get crowded.

Cities and counties may also find their right to object to what eventually ends up on their poles curtailed as a result of the deregulation effort.

CTIA’s new 30-second advertisement claims 5G small cells can be installed in about 90 minutes, but only after waiting years for a sluggish review process. (30 seconds)

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.

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