You Can't Have Better Internet, Not If Marsha Blackburn Has Anything to Say About It

Written By Ryan Stancil

Posted July 22, 2014

We’ve all been there at one point or another: We’re trying to use the internet for work, or to unwind a little, but find ourselves frustrated by slow speeds. Usually we just have to deal with it and hope the problem eventually goes away.

That’s just one item on the laundry list of common grievances that people typically have against internet service providers, and more often than not people want alternatives.

And you would think politicians who see themselves as champions of the free market would agree right?

Not always.

At least, that wasn’t the case last week when The United States House of Representatives approved of a proposal by representative Marsha Blackburn to effectively limit competition against telecom companies.

Blackburn, a republican who represents Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, introduced legislation that would make it so the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) couldn’t help local municipalities expand their own broadband services. It passed by a 223-200 vote.

Following the Money

If you look at Representative Blackburn’s page on the House website, the first line you’ll see on her “Issues” page reads:

Marsha Blackburn believes that free markets are the best markets. She knows that the Federal Government cannot intervene in the market without fault. The surest path to American economic growth is through small, limited government that controls spending, promotes growth, and does not overburden its citizens with taxes.

That all sounds good until you realize that her proposed legislation would effectively give companies like Comcast and Verizon the ability to continue the monopolistic strangleholds they have on the market in many places, including large parts of her own state of Tennessee.

There, EPB, an electric company owned by the community and based in Chattanooga, wanted help in getting around a state law that kept it from offering broadband services to parts of the state that were outside of its electric service area.

Doing this would have provided customers with an option of using a local utility for internet service instead of using a large company that has firmly entrenched itself in the area and has no real incentive to improve its service. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wanted to use his agency’s authority to help EPB until Blackburn stepped in to try and derail the whole thing. She claimed it’s a “State’s Rights” issue.

Marsha Blackburn isn’t a fan of what she sees as federal overreach, so perhaps her disdain for big government is stronger than her desire for truly free markets?

If you know even the first thing about how the political process works in America, then you know that those with the money are the ones who make up the rules.

Take a look at her top donors in the past year and you’ll see that the usual suspects of telecom companies are some of Representative Blackburn’s prominent backers. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have all given her tens of thousands of dollars to carry out their agendas.

Like many other politicians, it seems talk gets Blackburn a place at the table and a few extra dollars in the bank allow her to keep it.

Who knows, maybe she really does believe free markets are the best solution. Maybe when saying as much to her donors, they kept her on the phone so long that she decided to stay with them solely out of frustration.

Keeps your eyes open,

Ryan Stancil