Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wants to kill the FCC, network neutrality, & municipal broadband

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UPDATE: The Hill reports that the Republican run House, in a vote of 223-200, has approved Rep. Blackburn’s proposed fcc gutting amendment. It would still need Senate approval to become law, and will most likely be vetoed by the president still. Even so House Republicans are using this as a knife to kill network neutrality and any sort of protective regulatory actions for the internet now with a threat of possible government shutdown if they don’t get this bill passed.

The non-profit Washington, D.C.-based public digital citizen freedoms interest group Public Knowledge is rallying its supporters after learning that an amendment to the house version of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill will try to block funding of FCC network neutrality rules. Congressional House representative Marsha Blackburn is trying to add an amendment to H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.  The amendment would block the FCC from allowing  community broadband networks build out.  In several states and municipalities lobbyists for the telecom industry have even made municipal community broadband options illegal.

Introduced on July 2nd, Appropriations bill H.R. 5016 is the bill that keeps funding the government and whose failure to pass can shut it down. The White House has already said it opposed the existing FCC budget cuts and threatened a veto of a bill it says politicized the budget process.” Public Knowledge is asking citizens to tell Congress to stop meddling with net neutrality.

“Passing this dangerous amendment could stop the FCC before it even tries to make a decision in its ongoing net neutrality proceeding,” said Public Knowledge in an e-mail.

“Without the current FCC proceeding, we will continue to have no rules governing an open internet.”   It called on supporters to use an online tool to contact their representatives and tell them to vote no on the amendment, and to tweet the following call for Title II reclassification:

The amendment is spearheaded by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the representative made virally famous for her climate change denial in a debate with Bill Nye the Science guy. The amendment’s only purpose is to remove authority from the FCC to preëmpt state laws preventing local broadband infrastructure investment,  allowing municipal broadband options in areas locked into the reality of territorial broadband monopolies. In most cases most of these laws were hamfisted in by lobbyists on the local level for Comcast, Verizon, or Time Warner.

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By restricting the FCC’s use of its funding, the legislation will choke the agency’s ability to explore its plan to influence anti-muni state barriers so local communities can decide their own fates. The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC), has also written a letter explaining how damaging the amendment would be to help develop options and choice on local area internet provider development.

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It is sad and scary in to see Rep. Blackburn is pushing an amendment so blindly lacking any care to protect her constitutes that elected her to office in the first place. But In a way this is a good sign. It is an sign that the telcos lobbyists are running scared. They now are resorting to blatant force-fed bill writing because they think that they will lose the current FCC debate.

House Republicans tried, and ultimately failed, to pass a similar amendment as part of the 2011 version of the same bill in July of that year, hoping to block the 2010 versions of open Internet rules.  

The Republican-controlled House passed a resolution in 2011 to block implementation of the network neutrality rules, but it failed to pass in any form luckily in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, the FCC’s deadline for comments about net neutrality has arrived, and the agency’s servers buckled after recording over 670,000 of them. The deadline has been extended until midnight on Friday, July 18th.

[Public Knowledge: Tell Congress to Stop Meddling with Net Neutrality]