It’s net neutrality eve, putting both Washington and Silicon Valley on collective edge. To some extent.
In service to you, I awoke early this morning so that I could tune into a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the issue of net neutrality. However, the discourse was so dull, containing as far as I could tell the precise same talking points that have become rote through diminishing repetition, that I fell back asleep.
Even the $11 billion figure of supposed new taxes and fees that would materialize if the FCC’s plan is voted into effect was trotted out. Of course, as the FCC states on its website, the proposed order “will not impose, suggest or authorize any new taxes or fees.” So, either the FCC doesn’t get its own plan, or Congress is sluggish in its ability to do sums.
Regardless, only one of two House hearings that was set to occur today in fact did. The House Oversight Committee hit pause on its own confab, after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to sit through a barrage the day before the vote on the net neutrality proposal. So, we managed to get half cocked on last month’s dialogue. You have to hand it to Congress.
I am being somewhat unkind; one interesting thing actually did happen: Rep. Frank Pallone pointed out that having the same hearing, again, wasn’t that great a use of time (Transcription via The Hill):
This subcommittee and our full committee have too much other important work to do than have these same hearings over and over again[.]
And Lo, A New Narrative Was Born
If I have the timeline correct, by the time that Congress was wangling up bills to enforce parts of net neutrality, at the cost of denaturing the FCC’s authority over the issue from Grand Poobah to Cop On The Beat, Chairman Wheeler had decided to employ Title II of the Communications Act as the core legal foundation for his net neutrality proposal.
When his plan dropped earlier this month, that shift led to general outrage and shock and, among fans of the move, awe. Few had expected the chairman to end up where he did. I can’t decide who was more surprised: ISPs, or net neutrality advocates.
And now, after Chairman Wheeler has declined to delay the vote, things are in motion for a showdown. This has caused another narrative shift. First, the New York Times claimed that the Republican party had conceded the net neutrality issue. Not so, the ensuing clamor rang. In fact, an aide to the Senate Commerce Committee said the following:
We have not had the opportunity to have that conversation with them in a post-decision world […] Once the rules are made public for review, Sen. Thune is committed to pushing ahead. The FCC’s direction is bad for the Internet and bad for consumers.
So even after the vote, the GOP seems intent to keep the issue alive — at least in spirit.
I want your hot takes. What happens during tomorrow’s vote? What happens after? Points for dramatic imagery. The comments are yours.