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Lawmakers like Fred Upton are FCC hypocrites

Fred Upton helped write a draft of bill which would have created a "two-tiered" Internet back in 2006 that was backed by the FCC.

Published onFebruary 9, 2015


Although hypocrisy in politics is common, this type of hypocrisy with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does indeed surprise me because of the high degree of flip-flopping that is being done by certain politicians.

House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is outraged at the FCC’s decision to go forward with new network neutrality rules. Now, I have absolutely no issue with his anger at that specific topic. I personally agree with net neutrality but many do not and I respect that.

What I take issue with is the quote by Upton about the White House needing “to get its hands off the FCC.” Uptown also made it a point to state that all of this net neutrality talk was bad for the Internet business since “providers need certainty so they can move forward with their business models.”

If he wants the President to stay out of FCC affairs, he seems to have changed this belief since President Obama took office. Previously, Upton pushed hard for support from President George W. Bush when Upton helped create the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which passed in 2006. This gave the FCC additional power to punish broadcasters who showed indecent material on radio and television.

Fred Upton (Right) watching President Bush sign the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act.
UPI Upton (Right) watching President Bush sign the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act.

Upton even attended the celebrated signing of the bill with former President George W. Bush. During his time at the White House, President George W. Bush gave Upton a nickname of “Freddie Boy.”

Therefore, at this point in time, Upton seems to enjoy giving the FCC additional power and is quite happy at the President publicly supporting his plan. But maybe Upton simply wanted President Obama to stay out of the debate because of his so-called belief that the government should have no role in deciding the rules for the broadband industry.

Yet, since 2000, has their been a politician that has had his hands more on the FCC than government official Fred Upton? As we discussed above, Upton was one of the central figures in giving the FCC additional power in punishing broadcasters.


In 2004, Upton was one of a number of politicians asking the FCC to review the TV industry and see “whether a la carte pricing would be technologically and economically feasible.” Did he forget about the need to give TV providers that “certainty” for their current business models? Don’t get me wrong, I love that Upton did this but going by his reasoning today, this is not something that should have ever been brought up if he was looking to give the industry “certainty.”

Then in 2006, Uptown openly pushed for the passage of the Communications OPPOrtunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (Cope Act) which made it easier for telecoms firms to offer video services around the country by replacing 30,000 local franchise boards with a national system overseen by the FCC. Again, this is now the second time that Upton put forward bills that gave the FCC additional power.

Or how about the fact that Upton helped write a draft of bill that would have created a “two-tiered” Internet back in 2006 that was backed by the FCC. In the mid-2000’s, ISP’s were pushing lawmakers to allow for them to create a “two tier system” which would allow them to charge content providers different rates depending on the amount of traffic or bandwidth they require.

Fred Upton on PBS discussing the two-tier internet proposal in 2006
PBS Fred Upton on PBS discussing the two-tier internet proposal in 2006

BellSouth’s Chief Technology Officer executive William L Smith, openly discussed the potential to charge a premium to websites for prioritizing downloading by noting that Yahoo could pay to load faster than Google. AT&T and other telecoms wanted to charge consumers a premium fee to connect to the higher-speed Internet and also charge websites a premium to offer their video to consumers on the Internet.

Again, who helped write this draft?

“The prospect of a tiered Internet with ‘regular’ and ‘premium’ broadband services is spawning fierce debate as Congress takes up a major overhaul of telecom regulations. The House of Representatives last month held hearings on a preliminary draft by two GOP congressmen, Joe Barton of Texas and Fred Upton of Michigan, that would give the telecom companies the freedom to establish premium broadband services. The telecom bill is due for action early next year.” The discloses that the FCC has even signed on to the “two tier” idea. –

Generally speaking, those against net neutrality tend to claim that net neutrality advocates are crazy for thinking that ISPs could try to create a two-tier Internet. Yet, as we can see, they have already tried to do exactly that.

The list goes on with numerous actions by Upton who pushes for more and more government “regulation” when it comes to causes that he supports such regulation.


By the way, Upton wouldn’t have money riding on these decisions, would he? I mean, I can’t think of a bigger conflict-of-interest if he did. Of course he does. According to Gawker and the 2013 Personal Financial Disclosure statements:

Some members of Congress profit from the same companies they’re supposed to police. Four members of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology—that’s the committee that’s specifically in charge of regulating the telecom industry, including the internet—hold investments in AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. When these companies make big profits, these Congressmen share in them.
Hon. Fred Upton (R-MI) – Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and ex-officio member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
– AT&T* (investment amount: $15,001 – $50,000; reported income from investment: $0)
– Comcast* (investment amount: $1,001 – $15,000; reported income from investment: $0)
– Verizon (investment amount: $1,001 – $15,000; reported income from investment: $1 – $200)
– Rep. Upton’s wife invests $15,001 to $50,000 in AT&T and receives $1,001 to $2,500 in annual income from that investment. She also invests $1,001 – $15,000 in Comcast and receives $1 to $200 in annual income from that investment.

In fact, as the International Business Times reported, “Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon — received more money from cable-industry interests than almost any other members of Congress, campaign finance records show.”