Look, I know there’s a lot of stupid stuff that happens in the legislatures, including our fine Virginia General Assembly. I also know that legislators are busy, can’t study every bill, don’t even know what they’re voting for half the time, etc. Finally, I expect Republican’ts to vote this way! But why on earth would the supposed leader of Democrats in the House of Delegates, Ward Armstrong, be voting for crazy bills like HJ 577 (urging Congress to limit regulation of the internet by the Federal Communications Commission – FCC) and HJ 578 (“urging Congress to refrain from granting expanded rulemaking authority” to the Federal Trade Commission)?
A bit of background. Both bills are the handwork of a right-wing Republican, John O’Bannon. That, of course, should immediately raise a red flag for Democrats, but apparently it didn’t in this case. Not only that, but two seconds of using “teh Google” finds that O’Bannon’s anti-FCC bill is almost exactly along the lines of what the claptrap the crazy “Federalist Society” has been peddling. Namely, that it’s (supposedly) unconstitutional for the FCC to regulate the internet. What. The. You-Know-What?!?
It’s actually quite simple what’s going on here: this is part of an orchestrated assault by right wingers and corporate bad actors against “net neutrality,” and specifically against the FCC’s new net-neutrality rules that were issued in December 2010. According to the right wingers who oppose the FCC regulations, the “free market” pretty much should be able to do whatever it wants with the internet, including creating different “tiers”/levels of service depending on how rich you are, how powerful you are, etc. Among those “free market” advocates and heroic defenders of the constitution are people like FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who claims that “‘Net neutrality’ sounds nice, but the Web is working fine now.” McDowell and his ilk also believe that no new rules are needed “to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand.”
In fact, what these moderate, reasonable new rules by the FCC do is simply to “give the commission the authority to step into disputes about how Internet service providers are managing their networks or initiate their own investigations if they think ISPs are violating its rules.” The rules cover three main areas: “transparency; no blocking; and no unreasonable discrimination.”
Totally reasonable, right? Plus, it’s obviously a priority of the Obama Administration. So why on earth would Democratic House Caucus leader Ward Armstrong and other Virginia Democrats – Delegates Ken Plum, Kenny Alexander, Joe Johnson, and Johnny Joannou – vote in favor of legislation “urging Congress” to restrict the FCC from issuing its rules and doing its job, keeping the internet functioning well while protecting net neutrality? It’s totally bizarre. It’s also unacceptable.
More on the flip
As if that’s not bad enough, there’s also the anti-FTC bill, which is possibly even worse than anti-FCC bill. Believe it or not, Ward Armstrong and the aforementioned Democrats actually voted for a bill, again by John O’Bannon, that would urge Congress to protect “federalist principles” and to restrict the FTC from regulating unfair business practices (they put the word “unfair” in quotes in their bill, as if such a thing doesn’t exist).
For instance, in July 2010, the FTC ruled that for-profit debt settlement companies “who sell their services by phone will have to show results before they charge customers.” The point of this was to “protect consumers from deceptive companies claiming to help settle their credit-card debts,” such as “misrepresenting their services, such as by making telemarketing promises to cut clients’ debts in half or to free clients from debt in only 12 to 24 months.”
What’s wrong with our government protecting consumers from deceptive, predatory companies? I guess you’d have to ask John O’Bannon and the other 14 Delegates – including Ward Armstrong and several other Democrats – who voted legislation to the contrary out of the Rules Committee this past week. Ugh.