BFA Cites Call for Progressives to Drop Net Neutrality CRA Effort

Broadband for America is ramping up the heat on edge providers.

Both sides of the political spectrum have signaled in recent weeks the gloves are off when it comes to issues like privacy, fake news and Russian election meddling, with companies like Facebook--most prominently--Google, Amazon and others facing the strongest regulatory pushback in their relatively short corporate lifespans.

BFA, the ISP-backed group, Monday (April 23) circulated an op ed from the Austin American Statesmen that talked about the need for strong network neutrality legislation to prevent digital fast lanes, discriminating against minority views or "stifling fair competition online."

Those are all things ISPs have said they are willing to back in legislation, as long as they apply to edge providers as well as ISPs.

Creative Groups: Facebook Is Monopoly

Lena Carew, co-founder of the Justice Collective, wrote that progressives should stop trying to pass a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to reinstate the FCC's net neutrality rules, but instead work for a "comprehensive bipartisan net neutrality law" that protects everyone wherever they go, including the edge.

"The CRA also fails to address the full scope of the net neutrality problem, shortsightedly exempting the giant social media and tech companies that have business models built on prioritizing and circulating massive amounts of false, toxic and often racist information, such as about our elections, school shootings, and neo-Nazi gatherings in Charlottesville and elsewhere," Carew wrote. 

"It isn’t possible to keep the internet open and free if Silicon Valley isn’t covered by basic rules of the road on openness, transparency, nondiscrimination and equality online," she added. "This is true in principle — and especially of an industry where companies routinely employ just 1% or 2% people of color."

The lack of minorities working at edge companies is a longstanding criticism leveled by diversity groups.

Related: FCC Should Investigate Cambridge Analytica

Comprehensive bipartisan legislation continues to be a long-shot however, given that some Republicans have expressed concerns about regulating the edge, while some Democrats have signaled that a bill that allows for paid prioritization is a non-starter.

Facebook's revelations about Cambridge Analytica and surreptitious info sharing has become a flashpoint for the issue of regulating edge providers, including a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether the company violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree stemming from allegations it deceived consumers by not keeping its privacy promises. The FTC is authorized to enforce such pledges under its Sec. 5 (unfair and deceptive practices) authority.

"Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users," said then-FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz at the time of the consent decree. "Facebook's innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not."

The FTC is now investigating whether that statement proved not to be the case after all.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.