While we’re all celebrating FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement that he plans to reclassify broadband providers under Title II, some of Congress’ biggest recipients of cable cash are gearing up to get in the way.
Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) have introduced a bill they claim will prevent abuses online. However, the congressmen have long opposed Net Neutrality — and they have a history of accepting campaign donations from the companies trying to kill the open Internet.
Both Upton and Thune have described Net Neutrality regulations as a “solution in search of a problem.” Thune has called Title II “government control over the Internet.” Walden, for his part, is a dedicated obstructionist of the FCC. In 2011, he introduced an amendment to block the funding the FCC needs to enforce Net Neutrality rules.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations for members of Congress, Upton has received $466,000 from cable companies and the telecom lobby during his 18-year congressional career. Walden has received $316,000 during his 16 years in office, and Thune has received $76,000 over the course of 17 years.
These investments appear to have paid off for the cable companies. In addition to fighting Net Neutrality rules, both Upton and Walden have opposed municipal broadband. They both voted in favor of a proposal from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (the recipient of $261,900 from the telco lobby) to stop the FCC from preempting state bans on municipal broadband networks.
The fact that these politicians are even pretending to support Net Neutrality shows how far the center has shifted in this debate. The truth is, the companies lobbying against Net Neutrality have realized that they’re losing. The immense pressure created by people speaking out around the country has pushed Wheeler to propose strong protections under Title II, and the cable companies are freaking out.
Even Comcast is trying to brand itself as “the only company bound by full Net Neutrality” (conveniently leaving out the fact that it’s only temporarily “bound” as a condition of its 2011 merger with NBCUniversal), because the concept is so popular with the public.
In an attempt to thwart the FCC, these Net Neutrality foes all seem to have decided that paying lip service to Net Neutrality is preferable to Title II reclassification, which would give the agency the actual legal authority to enforce those rules.
We’re winning, and the cable companies and their friends in Congress are getting desperate. We can’t let a last-ditch attempt to constrain the FCC sidetrack our momentum. Help us stop this bill in its tracks by urging your senators and representative to oppose this legislation.