Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

ISPs Support Internet Legislation Because They Know They’ll Get to Help Write It

T.C. Sottek, the Verge:

There’s one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that’s taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It’s no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We’ve already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it’s filled with loopholes. It’s not just in Congress — companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too.

Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that’s a job for Congress. But there’s a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it’s because they’re very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They’ve already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt is the “pro-net neutrality advocate” cited by Sottek, and he addresses the influence of ISPs on lawmakers in the post:

So, the fight at the FCC matters, but the end game is Congress. And we all know that bad stuff can happen in Congress (especially when it comes to broadband providers writing legislation themselves). But (and this is the important part): the best way to stop bad stuff from happening in Congress is to speak up. This is what killed SOPA five years ago, even though a ton of people in Congress had signed on as co-sponsors. We’ve talked about this in the past: lobbyists win in Congress all the time, but only on issues where the public isn’t speaking up. Congress relies on lobbyists to fill in the gaps (and sometimes that’s even okay!). The problems come in when the public interest and the lobbyists’ interest diverge — and if the public isn’t speaking up, then the lobbyists win. But if the public is speaking up — and doing so loudly — it can stop bad bills in their tracks (witness Congress’s recent inability to pass any major bad legislation).

This must be exhausting for Americans to hear, but call your representatives. Of course it’s important to tell the FCC how you feel, but it’s also important to stress to your representatives at the local, state, and federal levels that you support net neutrality. The FCC, under Ajit Pai, will likely vote to strip ISPs of today’s net neutrality rules, but Congress can overrule that and impose strong consumer protections, but only if they know that consumers care enough.