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Democrats Urge Voters to Kick Out Republicans to Push Forward State Net Neutrality Laws

Phillip Dampier October 23, 2018 Consumer News, Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Sen. Hoylman

New York is one of several reliably “blue” states that could have net neutrality protections in place as early as next year if voters get rid of the Republican majority in state legislatures that have blocked free and open internet proposals from becoming law.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D/Working Families-Manhattan), is sponsor of S8321, a comprehensive bill enacting net neutrality in the State of New York. The bill was expected to easily pass the State Assembly, but Republicans in the State Senate seem to have helped bury the bill in committee.

“A free and fair internet is a cornerstone of our 21st-century democracy. The sentiment is unfortunately not shared by the federal government,” Hoylman complained. “Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, believes that big telecom corporations have the first amendment right to block or throttle any website at their discretion. States must take possible every measure to protect free speech and the rights of consumers, and California has taken a bold first step in enshrining these rights into law. New Yorkers unequivocally deserve the same protections Californians do, which is why I hope the legislature will bring my equivalent bill  S8321 to a floor vote next session.”

Hoylman was hopeful New York would join California in passing a comprehensive state net neutrality bill to counter the FCC’s abandonment of net neutrality under Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Hoylman said if New York and California both enshrined net neutrality into law, it would extend protection to one-fifth of the U.S. population. That bill has almost no chance of passage as long as Republicans maintain control of the State Senate. That is why an increasing number of Democrats are calling on voters in New York and other states to turn out in upcoming elections and vote against Republicans that serve corporate interests while voting against their constituents.

Electing Democrats to state legislatures could alter the influence of corporate-backed groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that facilitates corporations interested in writing bills companies hope will become law. Having a Democratic governor might also help protect initiatives like municipal broadband, which has been under assault by many Republican-controlled state legislatures with state laws attempting to dissuade or strangle community internet services from threatening large phone and cable company duopolies.

Net Neutrality was a hot button state issue in California this year, where it faced surprisingly strong opposition from an organized telecom industry and its lobbying force. The bill finally became law in late September. It now faces a Justice Department lawsuit, courtesy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who called the law “extreme and illegal.”

To date, 30 state legislatures have introduced bills that creatively require internet providers in their states to preserve and maintain net neutrality regardless of what the FCC has to say about the matter. Four moderate states (Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and California) found strong bipartisan support for the preservation of net neutrality this year. In states where legislative branch opposition exists, governors have signed Executive Orders that proclaim a state will only issue contracts to telecom companies that pledge to abide by net neutrality. Six state governors (Montana, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Vermont, and Rhode Island) have signed such orders, although state legislatures have yet to take the bigger step of making net neutrality a state law.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has issued a rundown of current net neutrality legislation as of October, 2018:

NET NEUTRALITY LEGISLATION BY STATE

STATE STATUTE SPONSOR SUMMARY STATUS

Alaska

AK H 277

Representative Kawasaki (D)

Making certain actions by broadband internet service providers unlawful acts or practices under the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Failed

Alaska

AK S 160

Senator Begich (D)

Making certain actions by broadband internet service providers unlawful acts or practices under the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Failed

California

CA S 460

Senator De Leon (D)

Prohibits internet service providers in the state from taking certain actions regarding the accessing of content on the internet by customers. Ensures that public purpose program funding is expended in a manner that will maximize internet neutrality and ensure the fair distribution of services to low-income individuals and communities. Establishes a process whereby an internet service provider in the state is required to certify to the commission that it is providing broadband internet access service.

Pending

California

CA S 822

Senator Wiener (D)

States the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to effectuate net neutrality in California utilizing the state’s regulatory powers and to prevent internet service providers from engaging in practices inconsistent with net neutrality.

Enacted

Colorado

CO H 1312

Representative Hansen (D)

Concerns the protection of the open internet; disqualifies an internet service provider from receiving high cost support mechanism money or other money received to finance broadband deployment if the internet service provider engages in certain practices that interfere with the open internet and requiring an internet service provider that engages in such practices to refund any such money received.

Failed

Connecticut

CT H 5260

Representative Winkler (D)

Requires state contractors to adopt a net neutrality policy; requires Internet service providers that are state contractors to adopt a net neutrality policy.

Failed

Connecticut

CT S 2

Senator Duff (D)

Requires internet service providers to register and pay registration fees and requires the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to apply net neutrality principles to internet service providers and enforce such principles with civil penalties.

Failed

Georgia

GA S 310

Senator Jones (D)

Provides that any internet service provider engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access service; prohibits any internet service provider from blocking lawful content, applications, services, and nonharmful devices.

Failed

Georgia

GA H 1066

Representative Wallace (D)

Relates to state purchasing, so as to prohibit the state from contracting with companies that do not provide a certification as to net neutrality; provides for legislative findings and declarations; provides for definitions; provides the elements of net neutrality.

Failed

Hawaii

HI S 2088

Senator Chang (D)

Requires a provider of broadband internet access services to be transparent with network management practices, performance and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services. Prohibits a provider of broadband internet access services from blocking lawful websites, impairing or degrading lawful internet traffic, engaging in paid prioritization, or interfering with or disadvantaging users of broadband internet access services.

Failed

Hawaii

HI H 1995

Representative Ing (D)

Regulates broadband internet service providers to ensure a free and open internet. Establishes a task force to examine the costs and benefits of creating a state-owned public utility company to provide broadband internet service. Executive order passed on 2/5/18 requiring all state agencies to contract with ISPs that adhere to net neutrality principles.

Failed

Hawaii

HI H 2256

Representative Ohno (D)

Requires a provider of broadband internet access services to be transparent with network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services. Prohibits a provider of broadband internet access services from blocking lawful websites, impairing or degrading lawful internet traffic, engaging in paid prioritization, or interfering with or disadvantaging users of broadband internet access services. Requires an applicant of a broadband-related permit seeking a state-granted or county-granted right to attach small cell or other broadband wireless communication devices to utility poles to comply with certain practices.

Failed

Hawaii:

HI S 2644

Senator Baker (D)

Companion legislation to H. 2256.

Failed

Illinois

IL S 2816

Senator Cullerton (D)

Provides that no state agency may contract with an internet service provider for the provision of broadband internet access service unless that provider certifies, under penalty of perjury, that it will not engage in specified activities concerning internet access and use.

Pending

Illinois

IL H 5094

Representative Andrade (D)

Amends the Telecommunications Article of the Public Utilities Act; requires broadband providers to publicly disclose accurate information regarding network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access service sufficient for consumers to make informed choices concerning the use of the service; restricts broadband providers from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices subject to reasonable network management practices.

Pending

Idaho

ID H 425

Representative Jordan (D)

Outlines duties, unlawful acts and requirements for disclosing certain information for internet service providers.

Failed

Iowa

HF 2287

Representative Liz Bennett (D)

Requires a communications service provider publish a provider’s reasonable network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband service and prohibits communications service providers from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, unless pursuant to a reasonable network management practice. The bill defines “reasonable network management practice” to mean a practice that is primarily used for and tailored to achieving a legitimate technical network management purpose

Failed

Kansas

KS H 2682

Representative Parker (D)

Prohibits state contracts with internet service providers that do not adhere to net neutrality principles.

Failed

Maryland

MD H 1655

Delegate Reznik (D)

Specifies the circumstances under which a broadband internet access service provider may handle certain customer personal information in a certain manner; establishes a mechanism through which a broadband internet access service provider may obtain customer consent to have certain personal information handled in a certain manner; prohibits a broadband internet access service provider from taking certain actions based on whether a customer has given consent.

Failed

Maryland

MD H 1654

Delegate Frick (D)

Specifies the circumstances under which a broadband internet access service provider may handle certain customer personal information in a certain manner; establishes a mechanism through which a broadband internet access service provider may obtain customer consent to have certain personal information handled in a certain manner.

Failed

Massachusetts

MA S 2610

Senate Committee on Ways and Means

The committee on Ways and Means to whom was referred the Senate Bill to protect consumers by prohibiting blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization in the provision of internet service (Senate, No. 2336) (also based on Senate, No. 2376),– reports, recommending that the same ought to pass with an amendment substituting a new draft entitled “An Act promoting net neutrality and consumer protection” (Senate, No. 2610).

Pending

Massachusetts

MA S 2263

Senator Creem (D)

Establishes a Special Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection.

Adopted 1/18/2018

Massachusetts

MA H 4222

Representative Rogers (D)

Provides for net neutrality and consumer protection.

Pending

Massachusetts

H4151

Representative Vargas (D)

Legislation to assure net neutrality by internet service providers and the equal treatment of data on the internet, and to prohibit discrimination or charge disparity of user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment or method of communication. Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

Pending

Massachusetts

MA 2336

Senator L’Italien (D)

A person or entity engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service in Commonwealth of Massachusetts shall not: Block lawful content, applications, services or nonharmful devices; impair or degrade lawful internet traffic; engage in paid prioritization.

Pending

Minnesota

MN S 2880

Senator Latz (D)

Relates to broadband service. Prohibits certain activities by Internet service providers serving Minnesota customers and those under contract to the state or political subdivisions.

Failed

Minnesota

MN H 3033

Representative Thissen (D)

Internet service providers serving Minnesota customers and those under contract to the state or political subdivisions prohibited from certain activities.

Failed

Minnesota

MN S 3968

Senator Bigham (D)

A bill for an act relating to broadband service; prohibiting certain activities by Internet service providers serving Minnesota customers and those under contract to the state or political subdivisions.

Failed

Minnesota

MN H 4411

Representative Hillstrom (D)

Relates to broadband service; prohibits certain activities by Internet service providers serving Minnesota customers and those under contract to the state or political subdivisions.

Failed

Missouri

MO H 1994

Representative Ellebracht (D)

Establishes provisions for net neutrality.

Failed

Nebraska

NE L 856

Senator Morfeld (D)

Adopts the internet Neutrality Act; changes communications provider requirements under the Nebraska Telecommunications Regulation Act; changes financial assistance provisions relating to the Nebraska Internet Enhancement Fund.

Failed

New Jersey

NJ A 2131

Assemblymember Chiaravalloti (D)

Directs Board of Public Utilities to prohibit internet service providers from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on certain poles or underground facilities unless internet service providers adhere to principle of net neutrality.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ A 1767

Assemblymember Quijano (D)

The bill directs the Division of Consumer Affairs  to establish the “New Jersey internet Service Provider Registry,” and promulgate regulations requiring all ISPs to affirmatively disclose to the division any prioritization policies, agreements with content providers for prioritization, and the material terms for their agreements with their customers.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ A 2132

Assemblymember Chiaravalloti (D)

Prohibits awarding of public contracts to internet service providers, unless internet service providers adhere to principle of net neutrality.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ A 2139

Assemblymember Chiaravalloti (D)

Requires cable television company to commit to principle of net neutrality as condition of approval of applications for municipal consent to system-wide franchise.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ S 2458

Sen. Cryan (D)

Directs BPU to prohibit Internet service providers from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on certain poles or underground facilities unless Internet service providers adhere to principle of “net neutrality.”

Pending

New Jersey

NJ A 1767

Assemblymember Quijano (D)

Establishes New Jersey Net Neutrality Act.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ A 2131

Assemblymember Chiaravalloti (D)

Directs Board of Public Utilities to prohibit internet service providers from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on certain poles or underground facilities unless internet service providers adhere to principle of “net neutrality.”

Pending

New Jersey

NJ S 1577

Senator Cruz-Perez (D)

Establishes the New Jersey Net Neutrality Act.

Pending

New Jersey

NJ S 1802

Senator Turner (D)

Prohibits awarding of public contracts to internet service providers, unless internet service providers adhere to principle of net neutrality.

Pending

New Mexico

NM H 95

Representative McCamley (D)

Relates to trade practices; enacts a section of the unfair practices act to prohibit and make subject to penalty certain acts for internet service providers.

Failed

New Mexico

NM S 39

Senator Morales (D)

Prohibited Broadband Internet Service Acts, Relates to trade practices; enacts a section of the unfair practices act to prohibit and make subject to penalty certain acts.

Failed

New York

NY S 8321

Senator Hoylman (D)

Provides regulatory control of internet service providers by the public service commission, requires internet neutrality and relates to the placement of equipment on utility poles.

Pending

New York

NY S 7175

Senator Parker (D)

Amends the State Finance Law; requires that a state agency, governmental agency or political subdivision, or public benefit corporation or municipality only contract with net neutral sources of internet services; establishes a revolving fund for the establishment of municipal internet service providers; makes an appropriation.

Pending

New York

NY S 7183

Senator Carlucci (D)

Relates to instituting internet service neutrality; provides the Public Service Commission with jurisdiction over monitoring internet service providers; requires a certification for internet service neutrality in certain state contracts.

Pending

New York

NY A 9057

Assem. Cahill (D)

Relates to state contracts being only with internet service providers compliant with net neutrality and establishes a revolving fund for the establishment of municipal internet service providers; appropriates $250 million therefor.

Pending

New York

A8882A

Assem. Fahy (D)

Relates to instituting internet service neutrality; provides the Public Service Commission with jurisdiction over monitoring internet service providers; requires a certification for internet service neutrality in certain state contracts.

Pending

North Carolina

S 736

Senator Jay Chaudhuri (D)

Preserves an open internet in the state; appropriates funds for statewide broadband access.

Pending

North Carolina

H 1016

Representative Grier Martin (D)

 Establishes procedures for procurement of broadband services by state and local government entities to support the principles of net neutrality.

Pending

Oklahoma

OK S 1543

Senator Pittman (D)

Relates to Corporation Commission; creates the Oklahoma Net Neutrality Protection Act; defines terms; prohibits purchase of internet services from certain persons in certain circumstances; establishes procedures for the purchase of internet services through certain contracts; establishes grievance procedures for certain contracts; excludes certain contracts from act; creates the Municipal Internet Service Provider Revolving Loan Fund; appropriates certain amount to fund.

Failed

Pennsylvania

PA H 2062

Rep. Wheatley (D)

Prohibits Internet service providers from engaging in practices which curtail equal access to lawful Internet content, applications, services or use of nonharmful devices; imposes civil penalties.

Pending

Oregon

OR HB 4155

Representative Williamson (D)

Prohibits public bodies from contracting with broadband Internet access service providers that engage in certain network management activities based on paid prioritization, content blocking or other discrimination

Enacted

Rhode Island

RI H 7076

Representative Kennedy (D)

Would require internet service providers to follow internet service neutrality requirements.

Pending

Rhode Island

RI S 2008

Senator DiPalma (D)

Would require internet service providers to follow internet service neutrality requirements.

Pending

Rhode Island

RI H 7422

Representative Regunberg (D)

Would establish the Net Neutrality Protection Act of 2018, prohibiting unreasonable interference with or unreasonably disadvantaging end users’ ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice, or edge providers’ ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users. This act would take effect upon passage.

Pending

South Carolina

SC H 4614

Representative McKnight (D)

Enacts the South Carolina net neutrality preservation act; defines relevant terms; provides that a telecommunications or internet service provider engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service publicly shall disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device.

Pending

South Carolina

SC H 4706

Representative Smith (D)

Enacts the net neutrality protection and maintenance act; defines relevant terms; provides that a telecommunications or internet service provider engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service publicly shall disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of these services.

Pending

Tennessee

TN H 1755

 Representative Clemmons (D)

If an internet service provider contracts to supply internet service to a state governmental entity or submits a response to contract to supply internet service to a state governmental entity, is discovered to have knowingly violated this chapter in the performance of the contract, the chief procurement officer shall declare that person to be prohibited from contracting for or submitting a response for any contract to supply goods or services to a state governmental entity for a period of one year from the date of discovery of the violation of this chapter

Failed

Tennessee

TN S 1756

Senator Harris (D)

Companion bill.

Failed

Tennessee

TN H 2405

Representative Thompson (D)

Relates to telecommunications; creates a task force of the General Assembly to study the effects of overturning the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

Failed

Tennessee

TN S 2449

Senator Harris (D)

Companion bill

Failed

Tennessee

HB2253, SB2183

Senator Harris (D); Representative Clemmons (D)

Telecommunications – As introduced, requires any internet service provider that provides internet to the state to provide a net neutral internet service.

Failed

Virginia

VA S 948

Senator Wexton (D)

A provider of broadband services shall be prohibited from offering or renewing services to consumers within any locality in the commonwealth in which certain media is throttled, blocked, or prioritization on the basis of its content, format, host address or source.

Failed

Virginia

HB705

Delegate Carter (D)

A provider of broadband services shall be prohibited from offering or renewing services to consumers within any locality in the commonwealth in which certain media is throttled, blocked, or prioritization on the basis of its content, format, host address or source. Virginia house panel kills ‘net neutrality’ bill on 2/6/18.

Failed

Vermont

VT H 680

Representative Stevens (D)

An act relating to protecting consumers and promoting an open internet in Vermont.

Failed

Vermont

VT S 289

Senator Lyons (D)

Would enact the Vermont Broadband Internet Privacy Act, providing for the protection of consumers and promoting an open internet in Vermont.

Enacted

Washington

WA H 2282

Representative Hansen (D)

An act relating to protecting an open internet in Washington state.

Enacted

Washington

WA S 6423

Senator Ranker (D)

Establishes a process whereby an internet service provider certifies to the commission that it is providing broadband internet access service in accordance with the requirements similar to net neutrality.

Failed

Washington

WA H 2284

Representative Smith – R

An act relating to protecting an open internet in Washington state.

Failed

West Virginia

WV S 396

Senator Ojeda (D)

West Virginia Net Neutrality Act. A person engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service in this state shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms. A person engaged in the provision of broadband internet service in this state, insofar as such a person is so engaged, may not: block, degrade, paid prioritize, block devices.

Failed

West Virginia

WV H 4399

Delegate Lovejoy (D)

Bill to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931 all relating to net neutrality for state government; requiring the state to utilize net neutral internet services and associated activities; and providing exceptions thereto.

Failed

Wisconsin

AB909

Representative Brostoff (D)

The bill adheres ISPs to follow net neutrality principles and requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to create and implement a complaint process for responding to violations of the bill’s provisions.

Pending

Wisconsin

SB743

Senator Larson (D)

Companion bill of AB909

Pending

Most pollsters expect Democrats will pick up seats in state legislatures, governor races, and the U.S. House of Representatives, but perhaps not as many as initially thought because of overall voter intensity and well-crafted redistricting by Republicans to protect their majorities in several key states. Governor races become key in years nearing the Census, taken every decade. The results of the Census trigger a wave of redrawing district boundaries to conform to changing population numbers in states. Some will pick up more House seats, while others lose them. The party in charge of the legislature and the governor typically have the authority to redraw district maps, except in a few states where non-partisan experts manage the task without favor to any political party. Those candidates elected in the next few election cycles will be key to that redistricting process.

But industry observers do not believe electing Democrats alone will be key to net neutrality enactment. In California, a handful of Democrats who received large campaign contributions from the telecom industry hampered efforts to enact net neutrality or tried to water down the language. In other states, some legislators held jobs in the industry and still favor positions friendly to phone and cable companies.

Some states may also be waiting to see what the courts do with the Justice Department lawsuit against the State of California, something that USTelecom, one of the industry’s biggest lobbying organizations, also recommends.

Broadband Industry Pushing for Industry Version of Net Neutrality

A group largely funded by the telecommunications industry is among the latest to call on Congress to pass net neutrality legislation, just as long as the cable and phone companies that have fiercely opposed net neutrality as we know it get the chance to effectively write the law defining their vision of a free and open internet.

Broadband for America (BfA) has long pretended to represent the interests of consumers. It has tried to steer clear of partisan politics by representing itself as a bipartisan organization, claiming that since its formation in 2009, the Broadband for America coalition “has included members ranging from consumer groups, to content and application providers, to the companies that build and maintain the internet. Together these organizations represent the hundreds of millions of Americans who are literally connected through broadband.”

In this spirit, BfA has given top priority to adopting a new, bipartisan, federal net neutrality law that would eliminate the regulatory uncertainty changing administrations have introduced through agencies like the FCC.

The telecom industry shuddered under the Obama Administration’s FCC with Thomas Wheeler as chairman. Wheeler pushed for bright line net neutrality rules that cut off the industry’s ability to toy with paid fast lanes on the internet, potentially costing telecom companies billions in future revenue opportunities. Wheeler backed his regulatory authority by using Title II regulations that have withstood corporate court challenges since the 1930s, and made clear that authority also extended to blocking or banning future creative monetization schemes that unfairly favored some internet traffic at the expense of other traffic.

The incoming Trump Administration discarded almost every regulatory policy introduced by Wheeler through its appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai. With Republicans in firm control at the FCC, in the White House, and in Congress, the broadband industry and its political allies feel safe to draft and pass a new federal law that will give companies regulatory certainty. One proposal could potentially permanently remove the FCC’s future ability to flexibly manage changing broadband industry practices.

BfA’s “pro net neutrality” campaign directly targets consumers through its website while also pretending to represent their interests. It is a classic D.C. astroturfing operation — fooling unwitting consumers into pushing for policies against their best interests. BfA claims it supports “policies that align with the core principles of an open internet: no blocking, no throttling, no discrimination and most importantly, ensuring all consumers have access to internet. Further, despite state efforts, only Congress maintains the power to regulate the internet.”

Broadband for America’s campaign to block this legislative maneuver actually helps net neutrality opponents.

Since no phone or cable company in the country is seeking to block, throttle, or discriminate against certain websites, passing a law that prohibits this is not controversial. But BfA does not mention other, more threatening practices ISPs have toyed with in recent years that would be banned by robust net neutrality rules. At the top of the list is “paid fast lanes,” allowing preferred content partners to get preferential treatment on sometimes clogged internet pipes. As past controversies between Netflix and Google over interconnection agreements illustrate, if an internet provider refuses to continually upgrade traffic pipelines, all traffic can suffer. With paid prioritization, some traffic will suffer even more because of preferential treatment given to sponsored traffic. The industry does not call this throttling, and some ISPs have blamed content providers for the problem, suggesting Netflix and YouTube traffic unfairly takes a toll on their networks.

BfA also objects to state efforts to bring back net neutrality, claiming such regulatory powers only belong in the hands of the federal government (especially the current one). It is no coincidence BfA’s beliefs and policies mirror their benefactors. While claiming to represent the interests of consumers, BfA is almost entirely funded by: AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, CTIA – The Wireless Association, Comcast, Cox, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and USTelecom-The Broadband Association. The only major American telecom company not on this list is Verizon, but their interests are represented by USTelecom, an industry-funded lobbying group that backs America’s top telephone companies.

Broadband for America shares a list of some of its members — all a part of the cable, wireless, and telephone industry.

Under the guise of the midterm elections, BfA issued a new call for federal legislation enforcing the telecom industry’s definition of net neutrality, and not just on telecom companies. BfA also wants regulation of “edge providers,” a wonky term that means any website, web service, web application, online content hosting or online content delivery service that customers access over the internet. In reality, the only edge providers the industry is concerned with are Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook — companies that often directly compete against telecom company-backed content ventures and lucrative online advertising. Ironically, many Republicans that have strongly argued for deregulation have supported imposing new laws and regulatory oversight on some of these companies — notably Google and Facebook. Amazon joined the list as a result of President Trump’s ongoing feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and owner of the Washington Post.

Backing the BfA’s lobbying push for a new net neutrality law are results from a suspect BfA-commissioned (and paid for) study by a polling firm that claims “87 percent of voters ‘react positively to arguments for a new legislative approach that sets one clear set of rules to protect consumer privacy that applies to all internet companies, websites, devices and applications.’” A full copy of the study, the exact questions asked during polling, and more information about the sampling process was not available to review. Instead, the conclusions were posted as an opinion piece by Inside Sources, a website that provides D.C. strategy, public relations, and lobbying firms with a free home to publish OpEds on behalf of their clients. Newspapers are allowed to reprint Inside Sources wire service content for free, sometimes without full disclosure of the financial arrangements behind the studies or author(s) involved.

The BfA campaign for a federal net neutrality law is not in isolation. The telecom industry has been on an all-out push for a new net neutrality law since Ajit Pai led the campaign to repeal the FCC rules. The industry’s campaign for pseudo-net neutrality has even won over some in the media like the editorial board of the Washington Post, that published its own OpEd in early October calling Wheeler’s use of Title II authority a regulatory overreach. The Post also has no patience for lawsuits being filed by telecom companies and the Justice Department against the state of California after passing its own statewide net neutrality law. The industry pushback in court is part of the Post’s argument for a new national law to ‘end confusion’:

The fight over net neutrality today can be reduced to a single sentence: Everyone is suing everyone else. Congress should step in.

The Justice Department said Sunday it will take California to court over its law requiring Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. Those ISPs were already primed to sue states on their own. And California is one of more than 20 states suing the Federal Communications Commission over its repeal of the Obama administration’s rules. “We’re not out to protect the robber barons. We want to protect the people,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) told us.

The FCC abdicated its responsibility on net neutrality when it repealed the old rules with no adequate replacement. Now, without setting forth its own rules, the federal government is seeking to block states from creating their own. That may be frustrating to Americans who want an Internet where providers do not dictate what information reaches them and how fast. But a nationwide framework governing net neutrality would be preferable to a patchwork of state regulations establishing local regimes for systems that transcend borders. And creating that framework is up to Congress.

But not all are confused. California resident Bob Jacobson defended his state’s interests in a rebuttal to the Post’s editorial:

Absurd reasoning emanating from the nation’s capital of corruption, Washington, DC. California has always led the nation — including the Federal government — in the sensible, productive regulation and consequent growth of its telecom and information economy, now the world’s largest. The Moore Universal Telecom Services Act, passed in reaction to the breakup of the old AT&T, is still the nation’s only comprehensive, progressive telecom policy, its success reflected in California’s robust technological and social infrastructure. Rather than supersede California’s policies, our national and other state legislature’s and regulatory agencies should learn from and adapt them to better serve equally all the American people. (And get rid of that mockery known as the Trump FCC.)

Wall Street’s Latest Great Idea: Providers Should Charge More for 5G, But Only After You Are Hooked

“You’re giving it away… you are giving it all away!” — An unknown Wall Street analyst tossing and turning in the night.

America is simply not paying enough for wireless service. Thanks to dastardly competition introduced by T-Mobile and Sprint (potentially to be snuffed out in due course if their merger gets approved), wireless pricing is no longer a license to print money. Forced to offer one-size-fits-all affordable $40-50 unlimited plans, the prospects to grow Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) have never been worse because you can’t charge people for more service on an “unlimited plan” without admitting that plan is not exactly “unlimited.”

Wall Street analysts, already upset at the thought of carriers spending more than $100 billion on 5G network upgrades, are in a real tizzy about how companies are going to quickly recoup that investment. No matter that some wireless companies have profit margins in the 50% range and customers have paid providers for a service they were assured would keep up with the times and network demand. If there is to be a 5G revolution in the United States, some insist it must not come at the cost of reliable profits — so the industry must find a way to stick consumers with the bill.

It is not common for industry analysts to go public brainstorming higher prices and more customer gouging. After all, North Americans already pay some of the highest cell phone bills in the world, only mitigated (for now) by scrappy T-Mobile and Sprint. Mark Lowenstein, a leading industry analyst, consultant, and commentator, was willing to go public in the pages of Fierce Wireless, arguing “operators should be considering charging a premium price for what will hopefully be a premium service.” That is likely music to the ears of AT&T and Verizon, both frustrated their pricing power in the market has been reduced by credible competition from a significantly improved T-Mobile.

Lowenstein fears the prospects of a “race-to-the-bottom 5G price war” which could arrive if America’s wireless companies offer a credible home internet replacement that lets consumers tell the local phone or cable company to ‘take a hike.’ Since wireless operators will bundle significant discounts for those who subscribe to both home and mobile plans, telecommunications services may actually cost less than what Wall Street was banking on.

Something must be done. Lowenstein:

In mobile, there’s been premium pricing for premium phones. And Verizon Wireless, for a few years when it had a clear network lead, was sort of able to charge a higher price for its service (but not a premium price). But today, there isn’t really premium pricing for premium services. That should change when 5G really kicks into gear.

So how do you extract more cash from consumers’ wallets? Create artificial tiers that have no relationship to the actual cost of the network, but could potentially get people to willingly pay a lot more for something they will initially get for a simple, flat price:

One simple way would be a flat premium price, similar to the “tiers” of Netflix for a higher number of devices or 4K/Ultra HD.  So, perhaps $10 per line for 5G, or $25 for a family plan. Another approach would be more akin to broadband, where there are pricing tiers for different levels of service performance. So if the base 4G LTE plan is $50 per month today, for an average 100 Mbps service, 5G packages could be sold in gradations of $10 for higher speeds (i.e. $60 for 300 Mbps, $70 for 500, $80 for 1 Gbps, and so on). An interesting angle on this is that some of the higher-end 4G LTE services such as Gigabit LTE (and beyond) could get incorporated into this, so it becomes less of a 4G vs. 5G discussion and more of a tier of service discussion.

I would also like to see some flexibility with regard to how one can purchase 5G capabilities. For example, a user might only need those premium 5G features occasionally, and might only be prepared to pay that higher price when the service is being used. Here, we can borrow from the Wi-Fi model, where operators offer a “day pack” for 5G, or for a certain city, location, or 5G-centic app or experience. 5G is going to be hot-spotty for awhile anyway, so why not use a Wi-Fi type model for pricing?

Even better, now with net neutrality in the ash heap of history, courtesy of the Republican-dominated FCC, providers can extract even more of your money by artificially messing with wireless traffic!

Lowenstein sees a brand new world of “app-centric pricing” where wireless carriers can charge even more to assure a fast lane for those entertainment, gaming, and virtual reality apps of the future, designed to take full advantage of 5G. Early tests have shown millimeter wave 5G networks can deliver extremely low latency traffic to customers from day one. That kills the market for selling premium, low-latency add-ons for demanding apps before companies can even start counting the money. So assuming providers are willing to purposely impede network performance, there just could be a market selling sub-100ms assured latency for an extra fee.

The potential of a Money Party only 5G can deliver is coming, but time is short to get the foundation laid for surprise toll lanes and “premium traffic” enhancements made possible without net neutrality. But first, the wireless industry has to get consumers hooked on 5G at a tantalizingly reasonable price. Charge too much, too soon and consumers may decide 4G LTE is good enough for them. That is why Lowenstein recommends operators not get carried away when 5G first launches.

“We don’t want to be setting ourselves up for a WiMAX-like disappointment,” Lowenstein writes. “The next 12-18 months are largely going to be ‘5G Experimentation’ mode, with limited markets, coverage, and devices. Heck, it’s likely to be two years before there’s a 5G iPhone in the United States, where iOS still commands nearly half the market.”

The disappointment will eventually be all yours, dear readers, if Lowenstein’s recommendations are adopted — when “certain milestones” trigger “rate adjustment” letters some day in the future.

Lowenstein sees four signs to start the pillaging, and we’ve paraphrased them:

  • Coverage: Wait until 30-40% of a city is covered with 5G, then jack up the price. As long as customers get something akin to 5G one-third of the time, they’ll moan about why their 5G footprint is so limited, but they will keep paying more for the scraps of coverage they get.
  • Markets: Price the service differently in each market depending on how stingy customers are likely to be at different price points. Then hike those prices to a new “nationwide” standard plan when 5G is available in the top 20-30 cities in the country. Since there may not be much competition, customers can take it or leave it.
  • Performance: AT&T and Verizon’s gotta gouge, but it’s hard to do it with a straight face if your 5G service is barely faster than 4G LTE. Lowenstein recommends waiting until speeds are reliably north of 100 Mbps, then you can let rip with those diamond-priced plans.
  • Devices: It’s hard to extract another $50-100 a month from family plan accounts if there are an inadequate number of devices that support 5G. While your kids “languish” with 4G LTE smartphones and dad enjoys his 5G experience, mom may shut it all down when the bill comes. Wait until everyone in the family can get a 5G phone before delivering some good old-fashioned bill shock, just like companies did in the golden days of uncompetitive wireless.

These ideas can only be adopted if a lack of competition assures all players nobody is going to call them out for pickpocketing customers. Ajit Pai’s FCC won’t interfere, and is even subsidizing some of the operators’ costs with taxpayer dollars and slanted deregulation to let companies construct next generation 5G networks as cheaply as possible (claiming it is important to beat China, where 5G service will cost much less). Should actual competition remain in the wireless market, all the dreams of rate-hikes-because-we-can will never come true, as long as one carrier decides they can grow their business by charging reasonable prices at their competitors’ expense.

Telecom Lobby Sues California to Block State’s Net Neutrality Law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four industry groups representing major internet providers and cable companies filed suit on Wednesday seeking to block California’s new law to mandate net neutrality rules.

The groups represent companies including AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp and Charter Communications Inc. The lawsuit came after the U.S. Justice Department on Sunday filed its own lawsuit to block the new law.

The lawsuit filed by the American Cable Association, CTIA – The Wireless Association, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom – The Broadband Association, called California’s law a “classic example of unconstitutional state regulation” and urged the court to block it before it is set to take effect Jan. 1.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Sunday in a statement that the “the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

This marked the latest clash between the Trump administration and California, which have sparred over environmental, immigration and other hot-button issues.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission said in repealing the Obama-era rules that it was preempting states from setting their own rules governing internet access.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Sunday the Trump Administration was ignoring “millions of Americans who voiced strong support for net neutrality rules.”

The Trump administration rules were a win for internet providers but opposed by companies like Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc.

Under President Donald Trump, the FCC voted 3-2 in December along party lines to reverse rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization.

In August, 22 states and a coalition of trade groups representing major tech companies urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the rules. The states argue that the FCC cannot preempt state rule because it is not setting any limits on conduct by internet providers.

A federal judge on Monday set a Nov. 14 hearing in Sacramento on the Justice Department lawsuit.

Trump Administration’s Justice Dept. Sues to Block California’s Net Neutrality Law

Phillip Dampier October 1, 2018 Consumer News, Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

Gov. Brown

Within hours of California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signing the state’s sweeping new net neutrality protection law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a federal lawsuit to block the law, calling it an illegal attempt to bypass the Federal Communications Commission and its chairman Ajit Pai, which the Trump Administration argues has the sole authority over the nation’s internet service providers.

“States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Sessions said in a statement. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order. We will do so with vigor. We are confident that we will prevail in this case—because the facts are on our side.”

The Department of Justice claimed in its lawsuit that California’s open internet protection legislation was blatantly against the public interest because it imposes a host of rules on the conduct of companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter that are contrary to the administration’s deregulation principles.

“[This new law] unlawfully imposes burdens on the federal government’s deregulatory approach to the internet,” the lawsuit stated. “The United States concluded that California, through Senate Bill 822, is attempting to subvert the federal government’s deregulatory approach by imposing burdensome state regulations on the free internet, which is unlawful and anti-consumer.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wholeheartedly supports the lawsuit, releasing his written comments praising it as part of the Justice Department’s media release.

“I’m pleased the Department of Justice has filed this suit,” Pai wrote. “The internet is inherently an interstate information service. As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently reaffirmed that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law.”

“Not only is California’s internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers,” added Pai. “The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits. They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans. But notwithstanding the consumer benefits, this state law bans them.”

The Trump Administration fears the new California law will set a de facto standard of net neutrality protection across all 50 states, because California’s market size makes it difficult for telecommunications companies to apply one standard in California, while maintaining different standards everywhere else.

Sessions

The California net neutrality law restores most of the rules ISPs followed during the Obama Administration, including bans on blocking or throttling internet content and outlawing paid prioritization schemes, which would allow ISPs to charge content providers extra to guarantee their internet traffic was prioritized over other traffic. The new law also covers interconnection agreements between ISPs, which are cited as largely responsible for traffic slowdowns on websites like Netflix and YouTube. Some ISPs have used these traffic exchanging agreements as leverage to seek compensation from internet content companies in return for higher capacity, less congested connections between a content provider and the ISP’s customers. The FCC did not address this issue in its own, now repealed, net neutrality rules.

California’s attorney general promised to defend the new law in court and oppose the Justice Department lawsuit.

“We will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load,” said Xavier Becerra. “We remain deeply committed to protecting freedom of expression, innovation and fairness.”

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  • Dylan: Look at their prices. Absolutely ludicrous compared to many companies, especially Charter Spectrum. I pay $60 a month for 100/10 with unlimited data. ...
  • Paul Houle: For a long time communities have been frustrated in that they don't have any power to negotiate with cable companies. This town refused to enter into...
  • Ian S Littman: To be fair, you aren't wrong. Spectrum likely knows it won't have any competition for years in Lamar, so they'll quickly get take rates of >70% (re...
  • Ian S Littman: Are you in an area that can even get Spectrum service? Because in areas where they actually have to compete, they're actually pretty decent now. Yes,...
  • Ian S Littman: A more odd entry in that list is Chattanooga. The entire area has FTTH via EPB. Yet apparently folks can't swing the $57/mo starting price for 100 Mbp...
  • Ian S Littman: The issue here is that the NY PSC's threats have no teeth because, well, who will take over the cable systems if Spectrum is forced to sell? Either Al...
  • Bill Callahan: Phil, National Digital Inclusion Alliance just published interactive Census tract maps for the entire US based on the same ACS data. Two datapoints a...
  • Carl Moore: The idiots that run the cable companies must be also using drugs...a lot of people are cutting their cable services because of the higher rate and inc...
  • EJ: This will require a New Deal approach. Municipals need the ability to either be granted money or loaned money for broadband expansion. Until this is d...
  • Bob: I also got $1 increase for my 100/10 internet from Spectrum. A rep said it's for the speed increase that's coming in 2019. I complained that I was pro...
  • EJ: It makes sense to focus on wireless considering the government contract they have. The strange thing is they referenced fixed wireless in this article...
  • nick: Interesting how they conveniently leave out (Spectrum TV Choice) streaming service which is also $30/mo ($25/mo for the first 2 years)....

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