No Summer Break From Net Neutrality Push

WASHINGTON — House members have been running, or at least striding purposefully, back to their districts for the August break, but they apparently can’t hide from the activist groups trying to press them to restore network-neutrality rules.

Legislators are currently in agreement that they need to do something to clarify the government’s regulatory role over the internet — edge providers as well as internet service providers — before the Internet of Things creates an exponentially greater flow of information and online control of virtually every aspect of life. But there is no agreement on what that government role should be.

Activists are trying to force the issue, including by calling, and calling out, House members as they campaign for re-election in November, including on electronic billboards in their districts.

Small business owners opposing the regulatory rollback are pressing legislators in their home districts, looking to convince them to sign on to a congressional resolution to restore the rules, but that campaign is ongoing and on the go to where the lawmakers are.

For example, Battle for the Net, a consortium of powerful edge providers — Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo, Kickstarter and others — said it has already generated more than 17 million emails and more than 1.5 million phone calls to Congress. The group has created a widget for websites that helps visitors send a letter to Congress or place a call.

The groups have created a three-part strategy to try and pressure the legislators on their summer break: 1) flood them with emails and calls; 2) make in-person events and protests in the district, mobilizing veterans, for example, a strong Republican constituency; and 3) mobilize small businesses in the relevant district because money talks, and local money is vital to local economies.

Edge providers’ interest in keeping the focus on ISPs and particularly large cable MSOs and telcos, has ramped up as both Democrats and Republicans have started talking about regulating big edge providers, like Netflix and Google and Facebook, whose market cap dwarfs that of the service providers, over issues like fake news and data security and privacy.

Those edge providers and the activist groups they support have branded cable operators and telcos as liars and has said there is “blatant corruption” in the regulatory process.

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.