WASHINGTON — Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee selected Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tennessee) to chair the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Blackburn, who will take over the subcommittee from incoming full Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R–Oregon), has long sided with the phone, cable and entertainment industries against ordinary Americans:
- In 2011, she supported the ill-fated SOPA bill, which would have allowed the film and recording industries to black out large tracts of internet content without due process.
- In 2013, she co-authored a letter to the FCC opposing the agency’s Lifeline Program, which helps low-income households gain access to high-speed internet services. She continued her opposition to the program throughout 2016, criticizing the FCC decision to help subsidize broadband in addition to traditional phone service.
- In 2014, she introduced an amendment to appropriations legislation that would have blocked federal efforts to protect world-class municipal-broadband initiatives local residents and governments have launched in towns and communities across the country, including in her home state of Tennessee.
- She has repeatedly opposed Net Neutrality protections and in 2015 introduced the “Internet Freedom Act,” which would have stripped the FCC of its clear authority to prohibit online discrimination and protect the open internet.
- In 2015, she joined with other House Republicans against the FCC proposal to protect broadband users’ privacy by requiring internet service providers to seek consumers’ permission before exploiting their online data for their own monetary gain.
Blackburn is one of the House of Representatives’ largest recipients of campaign contributions from phone and cable companies, as well as the film and recording industries and the associated lobbying and trade groups.
She has received more than $350,000 in campaign contributions from phone and cable companies and trade groups, including AT&T ($75,750), Verizon ($72,650), NCTA ($66,000), Comcast ($49,500) and CenturyLink ($30,100), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The film, television and recording industries, including the National Association of Broadcasters ($31,250) and News Corp/21st Century Fox ($23,900), have contributed $374,100 to Blackburn’s congressional campaigns.
All told Blackburn has received more than $750,000 from the communications and media lobbies that she’s now in charge of regulating. Few of her House colleagues even come close in this respect.
Free Press Action Fund Senior Director of Strategy Timothy Karr made the following statement:
“If you actually wanted to drain the Washington swamp of politicians who curry favor with corporate special interests, the last thing you’d do is elevate Blackburn. She consistently votes against internet users, mouthing the most uninformed talking points imaginable to explain her opposition to common-sense safeguards for open, affordable and safe communications platforms.
“To understand where her true loyalties lie, one need only follow the money trail of campaign contributions from massive media companies like AT&T, Comcast, News Corp and Verizon. Match the inflow of corporate cash to the policy positions that Blackburn takes and an unsavory picture emerges. While D.C.’s top lobbyists are likely rejoicing over Blackburn’s selection to head the subcommittee, everyday internet users — and those seeking more affordable internet access — have a lot to fear from this swamp dweller.”