House tries to remove protections for Internet users

FCC, House aligned in decision to protect ISPs, not customers


If you were wondering, as I was, who in Washington planned to do anything to protect the interests of individuals and companies that use Internet services – rather than those that sell them – the answer came down from Capitol Hill Friday: No one.

On Friday the Republican-dominated House approved a government funding bill that included a provision forbidding the FCC from using its budget to enforce any regulations covering the Internet.

The regulations the FCC set down last December are ridiculously weak and favorable to the telcos who own the Internet backbone. They do, at least, make the case that the FCC should be able to regulate ISPs, if only to make sure consumers and businesses who use the Internet legally can do so according to their own wishes, rather than according to the self-interested policies of their Internet providers.

That's not a role the House recognizes right now, however.

Among the 67 amendments it tacked on to the government funding bill include many that explicitly forbid federal agencies to spend the money Congress is giving them.

It doesn't directly counter the Obama healthcare program, but does deny salaries to government employees assigned to carry it out, or agencies to fund programs to make it work, for example.

They forbid the Defense Dept. to fund parties for senior defense officials. But they also forbid spending to enforce mining regulations, air and water pollution regulations or for the enforcement of inspection and regulation of food supplies.

They also forbid spending on things that are bumper-sticker issues for conservatives, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which is responsible for creating the scientific assessments on global warming many conservatives consider to be as false as evolution, and for rent or renovation of the U.N.

Judged by the apparent principle that government should have no role in ensuring its citizens have access to clean air, water and food that is relatively unpoisoned, it makes perfect sense to tell the FCC is should have no role in regulating the industry it was created to regulate.

The companies that built and own the backbone of the Internet are, primarily, telecommunications providers – whose Ma Bell anti-consumer monopolistic behavior made it impossible for customers to even use a phone sold by a third party, let alone get services Ma Bell itself didn't provide.

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