Ethan Elias Johnson is just some guy.
4009 stories
·
0 followers

The Night The United States Supreme Court Cancelled Law

1 Share

Last week's news about Justice Barrett fretting about the Supreme Court being seen as partisan calls to mind the old joke about a defendant on trial for murdering his parents and begging the court for mercy because he's an orphan. If you've created the mess you find yourself in, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Nevertheless, there is credence to her protest (which other justices have since echoed) that the way the Court has acted recently is not actually "partisan." After all, Republican-appointed Justice Roberts has been frequently joining the Democrat-appointed justices of late, which we wouldn't expect if political loyalties were all that were at the root of all Supreme Court actions. As Justice Barrett herself suggests, to understand what the Court has been doing of late, we need to look deeper:

“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” said Barrett[.] “I think we need to evaluate what the court is doing on its own terms.”

So let's do what she suggests and evaluate the Court's actions on its own terms. Because what we'll find is even worse than partisanship.

Justice Barrett argues that what the public is seeing is merely a difference in "judicial philosophies," as if the prevalent splits among justices are but two sides of the same coin. But what we are seeing from this Court is hardly a case of the justices simply calling balls and strikes differently according to their respective vantagepoints. Instead we are seeing the majority deploy a "judicial philosophy" willing if not eager to erode the previously stalwart foundations upon which American law has historically depended. It is a philosophy of little more than legal nihilism. And it represents a profound change in the nature of the Court of enormous if not cataclysmic consequence.

Trouble has been brewing for some time now, with the majority's increasing use of its "shadow docket" to wield a heavy hand on legal questions without any meaningful opportunity for briefing or substantive argument by anyone affected. Instead of carefully weighing the pros and cons of the particular issue raised by the case before them in an open and transparent way, as the Court traditionally has on matters of such significance, they are instead making ad hoc and inconsistent procedural decisions behind the scenes, despite the fact that these sorts of decisions are having huge practical effect and impacting people's rights just as much they would in any case brought before them for their full and reasoned review.

This problematic practice culminated a few weeks ago with its rushed, unsigned, barely two-page, late-night order in Whole Women's Health v. Jackson, when the majority declined to exercise its procedural powers to stop Texas's SB8, a facially unconstitutional law that offended the Constitution in almost every way a law possibly could, from coming into force. As a result, rather than upholding the Constitution, or protecting the public from a wayward state actor, or even acting consistently with its own principles of jurisprudence, that slim majority, with only a few, ill-supported sentences, casually abdicated the Court's role as a protector of liberty and ruled instead as arbitrary, unaccountable autocrats.

There are at least two key reasons why the majority's behavior here is so deserving of such excoriation. The first relates to the specious way the majority misapplied procedural rules as convenient cover for producing substantively consequential outcomes, apparently deliberately, although even if it had been unintentionally it would still be a problem. Procedural rules exist to help ensure that justice can be meted out timely and fairly. While it's true that in this case the Supreme Court found itself in the position of having to clean up the mess caused by the Fifth Circuit's own procedural hijinks – which had abruptly, and dubiously, snatched the Texas statute away from the district court's established review process and thus made it practically impossible for it to act before the law was supposed to go into effect – the Supreme Court's astonishing refusal to take corrective action is what made this review ultimately impossible. And it did it by turning those very same procedural rules designed to help administer justice into outright obstacles obstructing it, opting instead to hide behind them with nothing more than a brief prevarication explaining why these rules somehow, and suddenly, had made it, the most powerful court in the land, unusually powerless to prevent a clearly unconstitutional law from going into effect.

In failing to act the Court also unilaterally overruled the long-standing judicial preference in American courts for preserving the status quo when there is a reasonable chance of a law potentially causing an improper injury before the matter has been able to receive appropriate review. And not only did the Court ignore that concern, but it all but invited those injuries to occur. The statute in question had basically walked up to several areas of settled precedent protecting constitutional rights and proverbially punched them all in the nose, openly daring the Supreme Court to come after it. Yet, shockingly, the majority declined to.

This refusal to defend the Court's own precedents was yet another way the majority's behavior was aberrant and destructive. Precedent is what gives the law stability, because once the Court has spoken we can all know where we stand. Sure, new cases will come up and be litigated, but the questions then will be about if and how precedent applies to the new situation. Sometimes this inquiry may result in the narrowing or limiting a precedent's reach, but precedent has historically been outright nullified only on the rarest of occasions and only when there has been a material change in the circumstances upon which the Court's reasoning had rested, like a new statute, a new Constitutional amendment (rare), or some other fundamental shift in society prompting a second look by the Court.

And even then the Court's practice has not been to simply ignore or overturn its previous rulings; rather, it would generally issue decisions to explain what holdings were being revisited, and why, so that the new decisions could take on the same weight of recognized authority the previous precedent once had. But that standard went out the window on that Thursday night when it issued the Whole Women's Health order. With this order it signaled that it is happy to cavalierly trash the Court's previous rulings, and, worse, with no explanation. While reasonable minds may disagree about the wisdom of a particular Court decision, everyone should be able to read its analysis to understand how the Court arrived at its conclusion. But there is nothing here in this order to legitimize the Court's sudden and drastic rejection of all the past precedent the statute implicated. Worse, in so rejecting it, it has told the world that we can never know what the law is, because it can change instantly, depending entirely on the majority's mood of that moment.

Such a reality is untenable. No matter what you think of the Texas statute, even if you believe in or support its policy goals, what the Supreme Court did on this Thursday night should still strike fear in your heart. Because the impact of what it did transcends any particular law or policy. Not only did it undermine its own esteem as an institution, but it made America unsustainable, a hollowed-out Potemkin Village of abandoned constitutional principle, and Americans no better off than the wretched citizens of the ancient feudal empire that inspired the story.

What happened on that Thursday night was the catastrophic undermining of not only the Court's own legitimacy but the legitimacy of the entire American legal system. It left all our laws and freedoms, and even the very adjudication of these questions, subject only to the capricious whim of the handful of people with enough power to unilaterally decree, with no argument, consideration, or any need to justify themselves, how we must live our lives. We might as well replace their black robes with crimson ermine and sit them on thrones, so at least we can all see and acknowledge the sheer unchecked power they now rule us with.

This is not how our constitutional order has worked. It is not how our constitutional order can work. Yes, courts have always had lots of power. And the Supreme Court in particular has always had an enormous amount of power to shape our legal world. But there were always apparent rules tempering this power. Which meant that such things as reason, persuasion, equitable procedure, predictable precedent, transparency, and notions of fair play could function as guiding pillars within which advocacy took place so that, win or lose, we all could believe in the justice of the result. But not anymore. With this order all those basic tenets have now been bulldozed. Even any sort of reasonable standard for injunctive relief is out the window. As Justice Kagan noted in her dissent, the Court's unconstrained behavior has become increasingly "unreasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend." In other words: our law has itself become lawless.

Supreme Court justices are of course human beings and therefore fallible, and the Supreme Court itself is a human institution that necessarily has to evolve as the society it serves does as well. But the concern is not that the Supreme Court may be evolving, because evolution is one thing; radically altering the operation of the Court practically overnight is another. And what the majority did can hardly be explained away as mere mistake, as in, "Oops, five justices' pens slipped and they accidentally repudiated decades if not centuries of past practice and precedent." But when even the most generous view of what happened is incompetence it severely undermines the esteem of the institution and those who inhabit it.

Nor can we say it's simply a matter of one bad decision. Bad decisions have happened before, and while it's never good when they do, as long as the system still works they can eventually be overcome. But what happened here represented a fundamental shift in the way the Court exercises its power, from one of predictable certainty to one of subjective judicial impulse, and there's no overcoming that change.

How could we? For those of us connected to the legal profession, what power would we still possess as practitioners to influence the cause of justice in this new system? What skills could we still exercise? How could we continue to play our own constitutional role in furthering justice in the courts when everything we were taught in law school about the American legal system has just suddenly been rendered moot?

Yes, life will go on for most tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. But for how long can we deceive ourselves that everything remains normal when the new normal is anything but? When the Supreme Court can so dramatically change our understanding of the law and the scope and dimension of our rights with little more than a snap of its fingers, how are we to live in a society predicated on the rule of law and guaranteed rights? How can we even tell ourselves that we are? We're like the coyote that has run off the cliff, and sooner or later we're going to notice that there is nothing supporting us anymore. And then where will we be?

Read the whole story
SharedProphet
31 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete

WORDS ADDED TO SPELL CHECK TODAY: flabbergastingly, flabbers, gasted, gast, gasting

1 Share
archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
September 17th, 2021next

September 17th, 2021: Listen, some days you gast the flabbers, some days the flabbers gast you. Ain't that always the way

– Ryan

Read the whole story
SharedProphet
37 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete

An open letter to Texas Center for Arts + Academics

1 Share

To whom it may concern,

This week we withdrew our daughter from the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. I feel it is important share my reasoning with you and anyone else who will listen.

I know your organization isn't in the business of second guessing government directives, but you are supposed to be in the business of protecting the children entrusted to your care. Unfortunately, the 2021-2022 Health Plan you recently released will do the opposite, exposing students, faculty, and their families to unnecessary risk.

We know now that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 mostly happens when people breathe the air that infectious carriers have exhaled, and that touching contaminated surfaces isn’t a significant risk if hands are washed regularly. Per the CDC:

Current evidence strongly suggests transmission from contaminated surfaces does not contribute substantially to new infections.1

We also know that the virus spreads indoors further than 6 feet; this initial guideline was based on a theory that did not account for aerosolized droplets which can hang in the air for hours. CDC again:

Although infections through inhalation at distances greater than six feet from an infectious source are less likely than at closer distances, the phenomenon has been repeatedly documented under certain preventable circumstances. These transmission events have involved the presence of an infectious person exhaling virus indoors for an extended time (more than 15 minutes and in some cases hours) leading to virus concentrations in the air space sufficient to transmit infections to people more than 6 feet away, and in some cases to people who have passed through that space soon after the infectious person left.2

We also know that:

  • children under 12 (most students below 7th grade at the start of the year) are not yet approved to be vaccinated for COVID-19

  • SARS-CoV-2 can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, and indeed that happens more often among children and adolescents3

  • the delta variant, the current dominant strain responsible for spiking infections in the US, spreads significantly more easily than the strains we encountered last year4

So how did you decide to protect your students and staff? Given that you chose not to mandate masking to comply with GA-36, and that Texas House Bill 1468, providing for remote learning this year, was not passed,5 what are you doing?

(Unless otherwise noted, the rest of the quotes here come from Texas Center for Arts + Academics 2021-2022 Health Plan, August 9, 2021, https://s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/post.jupitered.com/v1/p80542713/1/2089696915/2021-2022_TCA_A_Health_Plan_(1).pdf.)

Four Core Practices

  1. Symptom Self-Screening for Students, Staff, and Visitors

  2. Vigilant Hand Washing and Sanitizing

  3. Frequent Disinfection of High Touch Areas

  4. Face coverings highly recommended, but not required

Ok, hand washing is good. Face coverings recommended, good if that’s the best you can do. But these steps are not that useful against SARS-CoV-2.

Remember, it is airborne and spread (especially with children) by asymptomatic carriers. Symptom screening was inadequate with the original iteration of SARS-CoV-2, because infected people were contagious before the onset of symptoms. It’s especially inadequate with young people, who are more likely to exhibit no symptoms, or only mild symptoms which they can easily hide. And with the delta variant the cost of failing to catch and isolate an infection early is greater than before in terms of number of infections.

Based on these practices, you will have outbreaks. So the questions become, how prevalent will they be, and what will you do when they happen?

Individuals Confirmed or Suspected with COVID-19

  1. Any individuals who themselves either: (a) are test-confirmed to have COVID-19; or (b) experience the symptoms of COVID-19 must stay at home throughout the infection period, and cannot return to campus until the conditions for campus re-entry have been met:

[…]

TCA+A Practices to Respond to a Test-Confirmed Case in the School

  1. If an individual who has been on campus is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, the campus will notify the Tarrant County Health department in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

  2. Consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, TCA+A will notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in the school if a test-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers, or staff.

  3. The campus nurse and administrative team will determine all students who have been in close contact with the identified individual and notify all identified families.

    • Students identified as within close contact may [emphasis added] quarantine until all return to campus protocols are met.

[…]

Additional Procedures

  1. Teachers will maintain a seating chart and track students within six[ ]feet of each other in case of needed quarantine.

  2. TCA+A will provide optional COVID-19 rapid tests for all employees as requested.

Providing tests is great, but the six feet number is meaningless! It seems the answer to the earlier questions is that infections will be quite prevalent, and when they happen you will not do enough to keep them from spreading.

You will have cases that will never be confirmed by tests (and thus will not trigger your contact tracing protocols) but will spread to others. Even when you do get confirmed-positive cases, your contact tracing will be useless if it only includes students sitting within six feet of that person in class. What about where they eat lunch? What about everyone who has walked through a room or hallway they were in, especially if they weren’t wearing a mask?

CDC:

Per published reports, factors that increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection under these circumstances include:

  • Enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation or air handling within which the concentration of exhaled respiratory fluids, especially very fine droplets and aerosol particles, can build-up in the air space.

  • Increased exhalation of respiratory fluids if the infectious person is engaged in physical exertion or raises their voice (e.g., exercising [such as dance, PE…], shouting [or projecting your voice so an audience can hear you in theatre…], singing [as you do in choir practice…]).

  • Prolonged exposure to these conditions, typically more than 15 minutes.6

All of these factors will be prevalent throughout your schools, and among students too young to be vaccinated (and likely surrounded by unvaccinated adults in their home life). You teach dance, theatre, and multiple choirs. Every practice session will be a potential super-spreader event. And you are doing effectively nothing to prevent that.

What could you do, though, beyond what you’ve already committed to? Well, we can contrast your approach with an actual successful reopening plan executed in San Diego:

The first couple steps are out because you don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the pro-COVID party in control of this state, but beyond that we have:

3a. Air ventilation-bring in as much outside air as you can thru the HVAC system. Avoid re-circulating air. Important to measure CO2 levels when classes are running-w/ people present. Levels need to be <800 ppm. ARANET4 is a great sensor that can be used to assess.

3b. Fresh outdoor air is 415 ppm so this is as low as possible and suggests one is breathing fresh air. Higher levels mean you are breathing other people's breath which can contain virus. This virus released in the breath of infectious people. 1000x more released w/ Delta

4a. Air filtration: Two types: 1) upgrade HVAC filters to MERV13. Make sure they fit well and there are no gaps/leaks. 2) supplement and add standalone HEPA filters (simple filtration—no ionizers or other bells and whistles) throughout big rooms.

4b. Reduces concentration of all aerosols and provides overall cleaner air (good!). Best to run 2 or 3 on lower speeds so they are more quiet. There are tests for quietness—see Marwa Zaatari on Twitter.

4c. To build inexpensive air filters-see Rich Corsi @corsiAQ, Jim Rosenthal @jimrosenthal4, David Elfstrom @davidelfstrom—all are on Twitter-great info-some below including cost estimate.

5. Wastewater testing. We tested wastewater in all buildings @UCSanDiego—other Universities did this too. This gives you a heads up before big outbreaks occur. When a building tests positive, everyone is alerted in that building and told to be tested.

6. Testing is key—PCR most common. There are really cheap rapid antigen tests that only cost $5 per test and only come up positive when the individual is infectious! Attached is article on the rapid/cheap tests developed by @michaelmina_lab

https://insidemedicine.bulletin.com/378975113857960

7. @UCSanDiego hired student "ambassadors" to help insure people were adhering to "rules"—wearing masks, avoiding crowds, etc. Enlisting a peer cohort (who wore bright yellow T-shirts) to help spread the word helped get important buy-in.

[…]

9. Tracing—when someone tested positive, we did tracing/testing of contacts.

10. Post signs reminding people to wear masks, etc.

11. Here is @UCSanDiego dashboard with lots of info-open and transparent sharing of info as you will see.

https://returntolearn.ucsd.edu

Here is a video you can show them on how aerosols spread and fill a room....

12. Note the riskiest places to be are crowded indoor locations with poor ventilation and people talking/yelling without masks.

FAQs on protecting yourself that we created:

https://tinyurl.com/FAQ-aerosols

13. I also attached a list of items for protecting yourself from 1918—Do's and Don'ts showing we have known what to do for a very long time!

14a. Final points-Also, please share the Greenhalgh paper I co-authored-this provides evidence for how we know the main mode of transmission is in aerosols through the air—sharing air needs to be avoided.

14b. If you can't, then masks and cleaning the air are critical. People say ventilation and filtration are expensive—they don't have to be. Can simply open the windows and doors (for free).

15. Multiple layers of protection are critical especially to protect those that are unvaccinated still.

And the thread continues. Opening windows in the Texas summer isn’t very feasible but much of the rest could be done here. These are the kinds of protocols that are created when people actually care about protecting people from this pandemic. On the other hand, stories of the predictable outcomes of failing to take proper precautions when reopening are already starting to come in.

The 69 outbreaks reported between Aug. 2 to Aug. 6, which was the second week of school for some districts, resulted in nearly 1,000 children and 300 teachers and staff testing positive for COVID-19, according to a weekly report from Mississippi's Department of Health.7

School hasn’t started yet in the Fort Worth ISD and ICU beds in our county are already more than 90% full.8

Withdrawing my daughter was the only remaining option I had to protect my family. And writing this is all I can do to protect yours. I hope it makes a difference.

Thanks,

Ethan Elias Johnson

3

Studies that have systematically tested children and adolescents, irrespective of symptoms, for acute SARS-CoV-2 infection (using antigen or RT-PCR assays) or prior infection (through antibody testing) have found their rates of infection can be comparable, and in some settings higher, than in adults.

[…] Compared with adults, children and adolescents who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 are more commonly asymptomatic (never develop symptoms) or have mild, non-specific symptoms (e.g. headache, sore throat). Similar to adults with SARS-CoV-2 infections, children and adolescents can spread SARS-CoV-2 to others when they do not have symptoms or have mild, non-specific symptoms and thus might not know that they are infected and infectious.

— Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs – Updated, cdc.gov, July 9 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/transmission_k_12_schools.html#covid-19-children-adolescents

4

What's This About Delta Being 1,000 Times More Infectious?, MedPage Today, July 23, 2021, https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/93717

5

Back-to-School Plan, artsacademics.org, June 17, 2021, https://www.artsacademics.org/2021/06/17/back-to-school-plan/

7

1,000 Kids in Mississippi Test Positive for COVID-19 After School Reopens, US News & World Report, August 11, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2021-08-11/1-000-kids-in-mississippi-test-positive-for-covid-19-after-school-reopens

8

Tarrant County, Texas COVID-19 Information, tarrantcounty.com, fetched August 12, 2021 https://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control---prevention/COVID-19.html



Read the whole story
SharedProphet
72 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete

After 50,000 Layoffs And Absolute Chaos, AT&T Ends Its Bungled Media Experiment

1 Share

You might recall that AT&T spent nearly $200 billion to acquire Time Warner and DirecTV, believing this would turn the dodgy old phone company into an innovative new media juggernaut. But despite $42 billion in tax breaks and oodles of regulatory favors from the Trump administration (like killing net neutrality), AT&T simply couldn't overcome its own nature as a bumbling, government-pampered telecom monopoly. As a result, the company has laid off more than 52,848 employees since 2017.

The company has also lost more than 8 million TV subscribers since 2017; users who largely fled due to price hikes imposed to help recoup AT&T's massive merger debt. AT&T also made numerous enemies along the way by reshuffling and shitcanning numerous top executives, gutting numerous brands that were popular with consumers (Mad Magazine, DC's Vertigo imprint), and generally behaving like a cocky bully in a high school cafeteria despite having clearly no idea what it was actually doing.

After a micro-investor revolt about growing merger debt, AT&T's now backing out of the media business about as quickly as it came in. After nobody wanted to buy an increasingly useless satellite TV operator, AT&T spun off DirecTV back in March with a value of nearly a quarter of what AT&T paid for it. Now AT&T is also attempting to spin off its media assets in a new combination deal with Discovery that would result in AT&T effectively exiting the media business entirely. Under the deal AT&T gets a little merger debt relief, and the entire operation is spun off into an entirely new entity tasked with competing in the streaming wars with Netflix, Comcast NBC Universal, and Disney.

AT&T's media effort will go down in history as one of the most bungled face plants. But coverage from AT&T-owned CNN mentions absolutely no part of AT&T's hubris or repeated failures. Not a single error or layoff is cited as the AT&T-owned company attempts to explain to readers why AT&T is tucking its tail between its legs and running for the exits:

"On Monday morning AT&T (T) and Discovery, Inc. (DISCA)announced a deal under which AT&T's WarnerMedia will be spun off and combined with Discovery in a new standalone media company. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, will combine two treasure troves of content, including the HBO Max and discovery+ streaming services. CNN will be included in the transaction."

Writing a 1,000 word story on AT&T's media ambitions without citing a single strategic error takes some real skill.

Other outlets, like Variety, did a much better job capturing the absolute chaos going on inside AT&T's acquired properties as employees are jerked from one bad decision to another, and now prepare for yet another wave of massive restructuring (and likely more layoffs):

"There’s no way this deal doesn’t make AT&T look like fools,” said a WarnerMedia veteran.

“People are in shock,” said a longtime WarnerMedia insider. Department heads lamented the promise that the coming days would involve the laborious process of trying to reassure executives at a time when the future is anything but clear.

"Here we go again,” one executive said.

AT&T executives genuinely thought they could buy, merge, bully, and bribe their way to media and online advertising dominance. But as government-pampered natural monopolies, US telecom giants genuinely find competition and innovation to be alien constructs. So every time they attempt to wander outside of their core competencies (building and running networks, lobbying to limit broadband competition), the end result is... embarrassing. Just ask Verizon's Go90/AOL/Yahoo venture. Or Verizon's VCAST-branded app stores and video services. Or AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile's doomed "ISIS" branded mobile payment platform.

Irony being that the money spent on these megadeals, and the endless lobbying required to ensure they survive, is being thrown around at the same time many of these companies are skimping on broadband infrastructure investments. The money spent on AT&T's media ambitions alone could have funded fiber to every home in America. Instead we got tens of thousands of layoffs, no shortage of empty promises about amazing "synergies", and the death of Mad Magazine.

Granted there's plenty of blame to go around for the massive financial, market, and human costs of these repeated, expensive face plants. Including a media that adores parroting pre-merger hype, and rarely follows up after the fact to confirm whether those promises are true (sorry, that's just not profitable). As well as US regulators and antitrust enforcers that, merger after merger, simply refuse to do their jobs. Collectively this results in a broader culture where we make the same mistakes time and time again, markets and employees suffer, yet we refuse to learn much of anything whatsoever from the experience.

Read the whole story
SharedProphet
159 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete

Cable Lobby Working Hard To Ensure Biden Broadband Plan Doesn't Encourage Real Competition

1 Share

While the Biden administration's $2 trillion American Jobs Plan set aside $100 billion for broadband infrastructure, the details of how that money is to actually be spent remains murky. Enter cable industry lobbyists, who are hard at work attempting to dictate who gets access to those funds, while also trying to make sure the funds aren't used for anything that could threaten their regional monopolies. They're particularly worried about the Biden administration's promise that a big focus of the effort will be on giving aid to locally owned and operated broadband networks, as detailed in this good piece by Issie Lapowsky at Protocol:

"Comcast, Charter, AT&T and their respective industry associations have spent years beating back municipal broadband networks in states across the country, lobbying for laws that prohibit such networks and arguing that government-funded broadband puts the thumb on the scale of competition. With potentially $100 billion in federal funding on the line, the last thing the cable lobby wants is to see those restrictions lifted and funding diverted to cities, not their own coffers."

Granted as we've noted for years, these communities aren't getting into the broadband business because it's fun. They're doing so as an organic, voter-backed response to decades of market failure and regional monopolization. Said monopolization is obviously hugely profitable, and the cable industry lobby is working overtime to prevent anything upsetting that broken status quo. As Lapowsky notes, Charter and Comcast alone spent $7 million on lobbying Congress last year, and that doesn't including the millions in additional dollars spent by their policy and lobbying organizations like the NCTA (run by former FCC boss Mike Powell).

Nor does that tally include the millions spent annually by AT&T and Verizon on an army of consultants, lobbyists, think tankers, academics, and astroturfers, all of whom are now working overtime to ensure a lot of that money goes into their pockets, and not the pockets of regional community broadband networks threatening to bring real competition to bear. Networks that wouldn't exist if America's entrenched telecom monopolies actually cared about things like competition and consumer welfare.

Historically, the telecom lobby has had success after success when it comes to ensuring the U.S. government doesn't take regional monopolization and corruption seriously. But as Protocol notes, COVID (specifically news stories showing toddlers having to huddle in the dirt just to get online for class because home broadband either isn't available or is too expensive) has changed the dynamic and really showcased the harm of monopolization and corruption:

"But as this fight moves from the states to the federal level, local broadband proponents have some advantages they haven't had before. They don't just have the backing of the White House and support of Democrats who control Congress. They also have more than a year's worth of examples of how people on the wrong side of the digital divide in both cities and rural America have struggled during the pandemic — and how cable giants have failed to fill the gap."

Even then, some community broadband proponents are expressing concern that the telecom lobby is already having a negative impact on the important terminology being used at departments like Treasury to dictate where U.S. government funding is going to go:

"Earlier this year in March, the Biden Administration signed the American Rescue Plan Act, which included, among many other things, multiple sources of funds for broadband infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Treasury was tasked with writing the rules of how local governments can spend the various funds. The Interim Rule has been published and it appears to significantly limit local ability to invest in needed networks."

While community broadband is framed by telecom as "socialism run amok" or a "government takeover of the internet" to try and encourage partisan division, being pro-competition and pro-accountability is yet another subject that isn't actually partisan. Most community broadband networks have been built in conservative areas with the support of local voters. And again, the telecom lobby has a 25 year history of fighting tooth and nail against all broadband competition, not just community-run broadband. While getting slathered in tax breaks and subsidies for networks they routinely half deliver.

It has taken a quarter century to even get the U.S. broadband policy conversation to the point where we can admit (barely!) that monopolization and regulatory capture (corruption) are the two primary reasons U.S. broadband is expensive and mediocre. It's not clear how many more decades it will take to actually do something about it.

Read the whole story
SharedProphet
164 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete

2020 Election Map

3 Comments and 9 Shares
There are more Trump voters in California than Texas, more Biden voters in Texas than New York, more Trump voters in New York than Ohio, more Biden voters in Ohio than Massachusetts, more Trump voters in Massachusetts than Mississippi, and more Biden voters in Mississippi than Vermont.
Read the whole story
SharedProphet
311 days ago
reply
peace
Share this story
Delete
2 public comments
CallMeWilliam
311 days ago
reply
There are more voters in DFW than all of Oklahoma.
alt_text_bot
311 days ago
reply
There are more Trump voters in California than Texas, more Biden voters in Texas than New York, more Trump voters in New York than Ohio, more Biden voters in Ohio than Massachusetts, more Trump voters in Massachusetts than Mississippi, and more Biden voters in Mississippi than Vermont.
Next Page of Stories