Federal Communications Commission Strikes Down Net Neutrality
As expected…by a vote of 3 to 2, which is exactly how the Commission is split Republican/Democrat. We’ve spent a lot of time on this already, but here’s a quick review of what this means and why it’s so important:
Right now internet service providers (telecom and cable companies) are required by law to treat all content the same: they can’t slow down one service in favor of another, and while they can charge customers for faster access overall, they can’t charge for faster access to a specific website or service. For instance they can’t all of a sudden make Netflix really, really slow and simultaneously launch their own competing service featuring lighting-fast speed. Now they’ll be able to.
Here’s how the FCC members voted, courtesy of the Washington Post:
What will this mean? A lot more deals between internet service providers, content creators and portals. Because it’ll make more sense than ever to try to control all three. For consumers, it will almost certainly mean higher prices, and an internet that looks a lot more like your cable TV package of yesteryear.
And if that wasn’t enough, the FCC also made it much harder for future regulators to re-institute net neutrality, by declaring the government doesn’t have the right to regulate it in the first place. Said FCC Chair Ajit Pai: “The digital world bears no resemblance to a water pipe or electric line or sewer.” Except, yeah, it does. Almost every single household in the U.S. now has internet access: so actually, you couldn’t really make a better comparison, unless you’re totally obtuse.
The FCC says consumers are protected because ISPs will have to report when they make a move of the type that would favor one service over another. Pai again: “We require ISPs to disclose a variety of business practices, and the failure to do so subjects them to enforcement action”. Except we all know the Trump Administration’s not real big on enforcement, so who’s that going to scare?
Ironically, while the specific net neutrality rules that were just overturned were a product of the Obama administration (so of course Trump wants them reversed), they were originally formulated during the administration of George W. Bush. So Republicans actually voted down what was actually a Republican concept.
New York State’s Attorney General says he’ll challenge the move in court. He’s mustering the support of other State Attorneys General “to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback”.
But there’s an inherent problem with legal challenges to doing away with net neutrality: federal law is written to prevent agencies from adding “arbitrary and capricious” government regulation (in effect, making changes with the sole purpose of reversing what a previous administration did). But in this case, the government isn’t adding regulations, it’s technically taking regulations away.
Tax Bill Hits A Momentary Snag As Republican Senator Actually Tries To Do Something Good For The Middle Class
Marco Rubio says he won’t support the $1.5-trillion tax bill unless it provides a more generous credit to lower-income families with children. The Florida Republican, along with Utah’s Mike Lee, had advocated for that while the Senate was negotiating its version of the bill, saying it could be paid for with a slight increase in the corporate tax rate. They both ultimately backed off and voted for the bill when they were told raising corporate taxes even a little was a non-starter.
When rich people wanted their top individual tax rates reduced, all of a sudden negotiators went ahead and raised the corporate tax rate to accommodate them. Understandably, Rubio’s not happy with that.
Bloomberg says “sweeteners” added to the bill this week amount to upwards of $200-billion, and Congress now has to figure out a way to pay for them before the final bill comes out of conference. The easiest way to do it? Make temporary cuts: (you know, the ones that throw a few dollars at the middle class), even more temporary.
That’s not to say the tax bill is in peril exactly, or that it won’t reach the President’s desk by next week, as scheduled. Just that there’s enough uncertainty that Roll Call reported late yesterday Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his trip to the Mideast in order to be around in case the tax bill ends up being a tie, and he needs to cast the deciding vote. (He wasn’t exactly expecting a warm reception in light of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, an action Pence has championed for a long time).
Some Other Stories We Found Interesting, In Brief:
• Disney Buys Fox, But Not Fox News. We mentioned this to you earlier in the week, and the deal just went through. Rupert Murdoch selling off a huge chunk of his Fox empire, including several of his TV operations, but not Fox News. Disney, which owns ABC, will pay $52.4-billion dollars.
• The Texas Representative who paid a massive sexual harassment claim (with taxpayer money), blames inexperience; says he won’t run again. Blake Farenthold, a Republican, said “I had never served in public office before. I had no idea how to run a congressional office.” And that apparently led to an “unprofessional” atmosphere. And that apparently led to an $84,000 taxpayer funded settlement with an ex-employee.
Adding to the intrigue, Farenthold’s district was declared illegally gerrymandered on the basis of race earlier this year. However, that ruling was stayed, while the Supreme Court considers it, meaning a decision to redraw district lines (or not) is not expected in time to impact next year’s House elections.
• How deep is Trump’s narcissism (and insecurity)? If you believe the Washington Post, very deep. The Post argues the reason Trump won’t even consider Russia might’ve meddled in the 2016 election despite overwhelming intelligence, is his unwavering belief that his success was entirely the result of “his own strategy, message and charisma”.
You know, sir, it could be both… No one’s saying the Russians were successful at it. Or that you weren’t the primary reason people voted for you. So to not acknowledge it at all reflects not only narcissism, but also deep insecurity.
• Remember we said Secretary of State Tillerson’s declaration that the U.S. was willing to talk to North Korea without preconditions was a really encouraging sign unless Trump “big footed” him. So yeah, that happened… So, never mind.
• One final thought for the week…Even with a lot of F***ed up stuff still going on, we feel just a little better about this country this week than we did last. (And we’re seldom optimistic.) Do you?