Last Day of Lying

No, the FCC Won’t Take Away Your TV Shows

A day before before an FCC vote to bar telecoms from artificially slowing the web, lobbyists are still pouring money into attacks—and a paper is reporting the government will be able to cancel TV shows.

02.26.15 1:45 AM ET

With just hours remaining before the Federal Communications Commission votes on new net neutrality rules, one final piece of misinformation might hit home the hardest: The government, one story says, could take away all of the funding for your TV shows.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that under the new rules, the government could force major telecoms to cut off TV programming budgets to build better broadband infrastructure, if it believes programming to be an unwise investment. The report cites “some Washington lobbyists.”

“A small piece of the rules could give the government wider authority over television programming,” the Post’s Brian Fung writes.

But the government likely couldn’t reallocate funding from Law & Order to fund broadband development even if it wanted to—and the rules going to a vote Thursday wouldn’t affect that anyway. The law the Post refers to, Section 706, is a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The law that “could give the government wider authority over television programming” has already been in effect for almost two decades, and no upcoming legislation is set to change it.

“Basically, this piece is citing Section 706—a statute that is in place now and will be no matter what happens tomorrow,” says Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The specifics of [the Post story] seem far-fetched and weird.”

The TV story comes in a week when misinformation about the FCC’s new rules to reclassify the Internet as a public utility has reached a fever pitch. Commissioners will vote on the new rules Thursday, and lobbyists and lawmakers have resorted to last-ditch efforts to kill them—as they would prevent Internet service providers from artificially slowing or outright blocking traffic to competitors’ websites.

One lobbying group has been doling out cash to place attack ads on Twitter timelines under the name of a fake government agency, the Department of Internet, warning of an Internet “at the speed of government.” Never mind that the new regulations, known as the Title II reclassification, would force Internet service providers to speed up to meet baseline benchmarks and prevent them from slowing traffic to make more money, as they do now.

In recent weeks, another lobbying group, backed by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), created a fake porn parody. And a think tank fellow—one whose organization has received money from Comcast in the past—has repeatedly likened the FCC’s handling of Internet regulation to Vietnam.

All told, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have spent $44.2 million lobbying against the passage of the new rules, Politico reports.

Still, even supporters of the new rules are worried that reclassification under Title II isn’t the best solution. They simply believe it’s the fastest way to make sure Internet service providers can’t shut out competitors for their own financial gain. There are also problems, some supporters say, with the process of implementing the new rules at the FCC.

“Moving towards reclassifying is the only way to make sure actual net neutrality rules can be effective, but what we’re concerned about is overreach—a general conduct rule—so that no party can claim the right to enforce against what they deem ‘bad,’” says Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But the government will not force you to buy special equipment to use the Internet, as the porn parody states. And, no, the FCC will not cancel your favorite NBC shows because it believes Comcast should reinvest in infrastructure. NBC is left to do that all on its own.