Wonkbook: The FCC is revising its net neutrality rules — again

May 12

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Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: $44 trillion. That's how much money will need to be spent to decarbonize energy enough to keep global warming at an agreed-upon 2 degrees Celsius or less.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: 11 maps and charts for Mother's Day.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Another net-neutrality revision in the works; (2) the GOP's minimum-wage struggle; (3) the cost of green energy; (4) Democrats' efforts on Obamacare skeptics; and (5) what's next in the LGBT-rights debate.

1. Top story: Guess what — the net-neutrality rules are being revised again

FCC chair promises to be strong cop in revised rules."FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will present a revised draft of controversial 'net neutrality' rules to other commissioners as early as Monday that would still permit paid-prioritization of Web content. But the new plan would attempt to explicitly warn Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T that they can't unfairly put the content of Web companies that don't pay for special treatment on a 'slow lane,' according to an FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the rules are still being discussed in private. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the new proposal." Cecilia Kang in The Washington Post.

The FCC chairman's strategy: Try to retriangulate. "Mr. Wheeler's language will also invite comments on whether broadband Internet service should be considered a public utility, which would subject it to greater regulation. The FCC has so far not reclassified broadband as a utility, and providers have fiercely opposed such a move, saying it would cause innovation and investment to collapse. The redrafting reflects the challenge Mr. Wheeler faces as he pushes forward with a vote Thursday on the plan that would then open the proposal to public comment. The chairman, agency officials said, is trying to address the backlash to his initial proposal while sticking to what he thinks will be the fastest course of action." Gautham Nagesh in The Wall Street Journal.

The chairman has increasingly stood alone in the debate. "To outsiders, the FCC may seem like a black box: We haven't even seen a draft of the proposed rules that have critics so alarmed. But on the inside of the commission, a charged political battle is playing out that could set the tone for the commission's future. And the fault lines are mostly leaving the agency's head, Tom Wheeler, cut off from the rest of his colleagues." Brian Fung in The Washington Post.

Advocates may still not be happy with this approach. "The (heavily criticized) general approach with the ability to sell faster delivery for some web content will be the same, but according to an unnamed official, will include language to make sure the FCC would have to make sure any deal doesn't put nonpaying companies at an unfair disadvantage. That will probably not meet the bar sought by most net neutrality advocates, and the updated rules are also said to stop short of calling for the reclassification of internet providers as common carriers under Title II." Richard Lawler in Engadget.

Would the tougher approach actually work? "Section 706 is the portion of the Act that a federal appeals court said appeared to give the F.C.C. the legal authority to prevent Internet service providers from favoring one company’s content over another when routing it to customers. But people who have seen Mr. Wheeler’s [previous] proposal have indicated that rules relying on Section 706 could still allow broadband companies to sell a fast lane to content companies. And in an F.C.C. filing Friday, AT&T argued that even a Title II reclassification would not prevent broadband companies from instituting paid prioritization of Internet content." Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

Congressional Democrats join the net-neutrality chorus. "A group of 11 senators — including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — urged Wheeler in a letter to drop a controversial approach allowing Internet-service providers like AT&T and Verizon to charge companies for faster delivery of their content. The Democrats’ complaints echoed those of Google, Facebook and other tech giants, which labeled Wheeler’s proposal a “grave threat” to the Internet on Wednesday." Tony Romm and Brooks Boliek in Politico.

Profile: How Tim Wu became a net neutrality defender. Jeff Sommer in The New York Times.

The House is poised to pass NSA reforms. "In a major twist, House lawmakers are rallying round Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) USA Freedom Act. The bill went through significant changes to win unanimous support last week in the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, which have previously sparred on the issue. Proponents of reining in the National Security Agency initially feared that opposition from the spy agency’s defenders, who say that reforms could handicap the nation’s ability to fight terrorism, would sink their efforts. But now they say momentum is on their side as the bill heads to the House floor." Julian Hattem in The Hill.

Other tech reads:

The court that created the patent troll mess is screwing up copyright too. Timothy B. Lee in Vox.

Court sides with U.S. in cell-tracking records case. Eric Tucker in the Associated Press.

CARR: Echoes of SOPA? "In the debate between the Beltway vs. the Valley, my money is on the Valley. Remember in 2012 when a clueless Congress lumbered into Internet regulation by coming up with SOPA and a companion bill in the Senate (the Protect I.P. Act)? The entertainment companies that backed the legislation thought it was no big deal, but then a group of Silicon Valley players — many of the same ones who are now coalescing to oppose new Internet regulations — unleashed their user base and a huge wave of protest erupted. Both bills went down hard." David Carr in The New York Times.

ZISSIS AND GLICKHOUSE: Lessons from Latin America on net neutrality. "In contrast to the proposed FCC rules, a new law signed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff guarantees net neutrality, establishing that telecom companies cannot change prices based on the amount of content accessed by users. Known as the Marco Civil, or the country’s “Internet Bill of Rights,” the legislation ensures that the government and Internet Service Providers cannot interfere with how consumers use the Internet. It also limits what information companies can collect from customers and regulates government surveillance." Carin Zissis and Rachel Glickhouse in U.S. News & World Report.

WU: The solution to the FCC chairman's problems. "The Commission’s best course is to pass tough rules under 706 with Title II as the backup, to insure the rules survive a court challenge. This strategy may actually ward off court challenges, given that it presents the carriers with a kind of trip wire. Attempting to invalidate the rules with lawsuits could well reactivate the full authority of the Commission over broadband, with the carriers unable to blame anyone but themselves. If all goes according to plan, the anger will subside, the sun will come out from behind the clouds, and the chairman and his staff can spend the rest of their years relaxing." Timothy Wu in The New Yorker.

JENKINS: Internet dogs howl at nothing. "The usual net-neut lobby groups were already shrilly opposed. Thousands of emails from an overly excited public have poured into his agency, the Federal Communications Commission, of which Mr. Wheeler is the chairman. Even one of his fellow Democrats on the commission has called for his plan to be shelved before next week's meeting. Mr. Wheeler has neglected the wisdom of the ages and woken up the sleeping dog." Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal.

Top opinion

KRUGMAN: Crazy climate economics. "You can already get a taste of what’s coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn’t just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.’s proposed rule — which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost — reflected the Marxist concept of 'from each according to his ability.' Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew? And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

MULLAINATHAN: A possible path to closing the pay gap? "It’s 2014, and women are still paid less than men. Does this suggest that a gender pay gap is an unfortunately permanent fixture? Will it still be with us in 50 years? I would predict yes. But by that point, it will be men who will be earning less than women. My forecast is based on evidence from schools, where it has been easier to work toward a level playing field than in the workplace." Sendhil Mullainathan in The New York Times.

SINGER: The health insurance trap. "Health care costs are too damn high — and they’re only getting worse. Last week, researchers at Harvard and Dartmouth released a report estimating that health care costs will continue to grow faster than the economy for at least the next two decades. This is a tremendous burden on average Americans, who already spend nearly a fifth of their average annual pre-tax income on health care. Why can’t Obamacare stop this trend? Because the law doubles down on one of the biggest contributing factors to the high price of medical care: Health insurance." Jeffrey Singer in Forbes.

CROOK: Piketty's wealth tax is no joke. "I've complained about Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' and I still think it's been vastly overpraised, but I don't go along with every criticism others have made. As a matter of fact, I think one idea that's been roundly dismissed by fans and critics alike deserves to be taken more seriously: the proposal for a global wealth tax....Piketty himself acknowledges that the tax is Utopian and -- as in the rest of book -- he spends no time interrogating his big conclusions or trying to improve them. But if you unpack the idea a little, it starts to look better. When it comes to feasibility, you might even claim that policy is moving this way." Clive Crook in Bloomberg View.

FLAVELLE: Climate change is stuck in the culture war. "Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman criticized Republican leaders this week for being cowed by the Tea Party into disavowing climate change. What's more interesting, and more pressing for the rest of us, is the question he didn't answer: Why are Tea Party supporters, who still hold sway over the Republican Party, so insistent that climate change is a hoax? The answer isn't as obvious as it might seem." Christopher Flavelle in Bloomberg View.

BHAGWATI AND YANG: A way forward on immigration reform. "With 2014 looking like the year immigration reform could actually pass both houses, we suggest a compromise, at least on the issue of citizenship. If one wants a kinder and gentler immigration policy, a pathway to citizenship may seem like the right choice. Yet a green card, or permanent-residence status, offers virtually everything that citizenship offers except the following: the duty to serve on juries, the right not to be deported and the right to vote." Jagdish Bhagwati and May L. Yang in The Wall Street Journal.

Animals interlude: Hamster eating tiny pizza.

2. The GOP's minimum wage dilemma

Rift appears in GOP over minimum wage. "Several leading Republicans have called for raising the federal minimum wage and others are speaking more forcefully about the party’s failure to connect with low-income Americans — stances that are causing a growing rift within the party over how best to address the gulf between the rich and poor. With most tea party leaders in Congress and elsewhere opposed to a wage hike and intensely focused on dismantling President Obama’s health-care law and his second-term agenda, the prospects for raising the minimum wage this year remain slim." Robert Costa and Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post.

Mitt Romney changes his mind on the minimum wage — again. "In January 2012, Mitt Romney said he had long been in favor of increasing the minimum wage. A few months later, facing outcry from the right, he reversed his stance. And now, Romney is back to his pre-presidential-race views on one of the biggest issues of this year. 'As you know, I part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of minimum wage,' the former Republican governor of Massachusetts said on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Friday. 'I think we ought to raise it. Quite frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.'" Marina Koren in National Journal.

Democrats get their wish. "Democrats have repeatedly said that they hope the minimum wage will be a big issue this election season. Six months from the midterm elections, their wishes are coming true. House Republicans voted in March to block a bill that would have hiked the minimum wage; some Republicans seem to be rethinking their position on this and other issues relevant to working-class Americans....Last week, on the same show, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that Republicans need to change their position on the minimum wage....Earlier this week, former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum agreed." Alana Semuels and Mark Z. Barabak in the Los Angeles Times.

Romney's move reflects the tricky politics of the issue. "I think it’s possible Romney wasn’t really trying to make an economic argument, but a political one. That is, he was saying it’s hard for Republicans to oppose raising the minimum wage and also convince people that they care a lot about wages. Giving in on the minimum wage could be a useful way to demonstrate that we do care — even if, as Romney should know, it’s not the right underlying policy. This is more like the argument Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum (political sages, all) have been making, and they might well have a point." Patrick Brennan in National Review.

Explainer: The GOP's confused approach on the minimum wage. Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Other economic/financial reads:

Job openings edged down but quitting rose in March. Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

On income inequality: A French economist versus an American capitalist. Marilyn Geewax in NPR.

Bill to dismantle Freddie, Fannie appears stalled in committee. Dina ElBoghdady in The Washington Post.

World Bank eyes biggest poverty line increase in decades. Shawn Donnan in The Financial Times.

'Frozen' interlude: If it were a horror movie, this is how its trailer might look.

3. How expensive will it be to go green?

It's getting more expensive to make our electricity cleaner. "The cost of cutting carbon emissions from power generation enough to restrict global warming to safe levels is rising because growing coal use outweighs the progress in renewables, the International Energy Agency said. Investments of $44 trillion through 2050 are needed to decarbonize the energy sector, the Paris-based agency said today in an e-mailed report, up 22 percent from the figure it gave two years ago. The spending would ensure the average temperature rise since the industrial revolution is limited to the 2-degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) target world leaders have endorsed." Alex Morales in Bloomberg.

Obama is touting solar, other renewable energy as part of his climate push. "President Barack Obama on Friday trumpeted new executive actions and public- and private-sector commitments aimed at cutting carbon pollution and improving energy efficiency, saying that climate change is real and must be addressed now. In a speech at a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, Calif., the president laid out a list of clean-energy objectives he can accomplish without Congress's help and touted corporate pledges to expand the deployment of solar power." Colleen McCain Nelson in The Wall Street Journal.

Don't forget energy efficiency. "President Obama capped a weeklong focus on climate change with a push for greater energy efficiency, a pitch particularly attuned to reaching two groups: big-dollar donors in the green movement and activists once inspired by his 2008 ambition to heal the planet. Both groups will play a role in turning out Democratic voters in November, a crucial factor for the party's hope to retain control of the Senate. But Obama has faced palpable frustration among some supporters who had hoped for more progress on his 6-year-old promises." Maeve Reston and Kathleen Hennessey in the Los Angeles Times.

On the GOP's campaign-year agenda: The Keystone XL pipeline. Timothy Cama in The Hill.

Another win for the EPA in court. "The Obama administration on Friday scored its third major legal victory on air pollution in less than month when a federal appeals court rejected an industry challenge to its latest health standards for fine particulate matter, or soot. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was within its discretion in 2012 when it tightened limits on lung-damaging soot." Tony Barboza in the Los Angeles Times.

That bipartisan energy-efficiency bill is likely to go down — again. "As a coda to the energy and Keystone XL pipeline debate from last week, the Senate will vote Monday to end debate over the energy-efficiency bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen. It looks unlikely that enough Republicans will vote with Democrats to end debate and get to an up-or-down vote on the bipartisan measure, GOP aides say. Such a defeat would mark the second time the legislation, which has broad support in both parties, went down for procedural reasons." Michael Catalini in National Journal.

Other environmental/energy reads:

Feds failed to inspect higher-risk oil wells. Hope Yen in the Associated Press.

Regulators worry reactors vulnerable to quakes. Rebecca Smith in The Wall Street Journal.

Mother's Day interlude: A shout-out to all the military moms serving our country.

4. Can Democrats win over skeptics on Obamacare?

Liberal groups are launching campaigns to boost turnout based on Obamacare support. "Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing about the hotly contested Affordable Care Act: When it comes to voter intensity, the GOP holds a clear upper hand. But a trio of major liberal groups hopes to change that in coming months, with plans to spend tens of millions of dollars persuading residents in a dozen key states to vote for Democrats based on the issue. Whether they succeed could help determine not just control of the Senate but the fate of key gubernatorial races and the law’s viability." Juliet Eilperin and Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

Three races in N.H. demonstrate Democrats' challenge winning over skeptical voters. "Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in the Congress have grown more confident in recent months about their ability to use the president's signature healthcare law as a draw rather than a liability in this November's midterm elections. Three races in New Hampshire illustrate the challenge, offering a test of whether Democrats can overcome voter skepticism about the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The law, aiming to expand health insurance coverage to millions more Americans, has come under sustained attack from Republicans." Susan Cornwell in Reuters.

Poll: Most Americans want to either keep Obamacare as is or keep with fixes. CNN.

Explainer: Forget Obamacare. The GOP's favorite new 2014 buzzword is Benghazi. Jaime Fuller in The Washington Post.

Repealing the ACA's employer mandate wouldn't cause a sharp hike in uninsured. "New research suggests a contentious component of Obamacare may be more trouble politically than it's actually worth. Repealing the Affordable Care Act's 'employer mandate' would eliminate labor market distortions, cut opposition to the health law and leave only 200,000 more Americans without health insurance, according to new research by the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank." Tony Pugh in McClatchy Newspapers.

Charts: Should Obamacare let employers not provide insurance? Sarah Kliff in Vox.

Could the employer mandate hit low-wage workers the hardest? "President Obama's health care law imposes penalties on larger employers who do not provide government-approved health coverage, but a new study from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation argues that low-wage workers will be hit hardest by the provision." Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner.

Other health care reads:

$474M for four failed Obamacare state exchanges. Jennifer Haberkorn and Kyle Cheney in Politico.

Long read: An Alabama clinic stands out amid data on Medicare payments. Amy Brittain, David S. Fallis and Dan Keating in The Washington Post.

Health law opens up new possibilities for pregnant women. Associated Press.

U.S. public health system springs into action as MERS virus hits. Tina Susman and Eryn Brown in the Los Angeles Times.

Rural hospitals are feeling the pinch. Valerie Bauerlein in The Wall Street Journal.

Primary care system feels surge of Obamacare enrollees. Phil Galewitz in USA Today.

Sports interlude: A heartfelt Mother's Day tribute from NBA star Kevin Durant.

5. The new frontier in the LGBT-rights debate?

The next 'don't ask, don't tell' controversy could be over the military's transgender ban. "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that he was open to reconsidering the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. 'I do think it continually should be reviewed,' he said....'I’m open to that.' The 'bottom line,' Hagel said, is that 'every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.' Though the ban on openly gay personnel serving was lifted in 2011, transgender members must keep their gender identity a secret or risk being discharged." Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post.

Arkansas prepares to appeal same-sex marriage ruling. "The state's top lawyer will ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision to overturn a 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced his intent to appeal to the high court late Saturday night, but not before 15 licenses were issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas' Carroll County, heralding the arrival of gay marriage in the Bible Belt in the U.S. South." Christina Huynh in the Associated Press.

Uneasy alliance in Virginia challenge to same-sex marriage ban. "The legal forces challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage have been brought together in something like a shotgun wedding, uniting lawyers who previously clashed over the best legal strategy to pursue a common goal. One side (of the same side) are celebrity lawyers Theodore Olson and David Boies, who have urged that bans on same-sex marriage should be met with a swing-for-the fences challenge to convince federal courts that the restrictions are unconstitutional." Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

Other legal reads:

Same-sex marriage opponents invoke Justice Kennedy. Mark Sherman in the Associated Press.

After Supreme Court’s decision on prayers at meetings, what about crosses? Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

Feds seek prison for rural Washington state pot growers. Nicholas K. Geranios and Gene Johnson in the Associated Press.

Another food-eating animal interlude: Bunny eats raspberries.

Wonkblog roundup

Now on auction in Detroit: Homes starting at $1,000. Emily Badger.

Did the financial crisis make us permanently poorer? Matt O'Brien.

After taxpayer bailout, should Fannie/Freddie shareholders benefit from their big profits? Dina ElBoghdady.

Spouses of high-skilled immigrants aren’t allowed to work. That’s finally changing. Lydia DePillis.

The demographic paradox of who bikes and walks to work. Emily Badger.

Deficit, schmeficit: Why the fight over the research credit is really about tax reform. Lori Montgomery.

Et Cetera

Charter schools get bipartisan boost from House. Joy Resmovits in The Huffington Post.

How genetically modified foods confuse consumers. Mary Clare Jalonick in the Associated Press.

Pfizer sees backlash from Congress, states in AstraZeneca bid. Shannon Pettypiece, Richard Rubin and Michelle Fay Cortez in Bloomberg.

Tax credit vote reveals conflicted Democrats. Billy House in National Journal.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.

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