Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn isn’t having much luck in her bid to transition from the House to the Senate, and her blind subservience to giant broadband monopolies likely has something to do with it.While competition for the telecom corruption crown is fierce, it’s hard to find a politician more beholden to big ISPs than Blackburn. Blackburn has hoovered up telecom sector campaign cash for years, then loyally and routinely opposed every and any effort to hold uncompetitive telecom giants accountable for anti-competitive behavior and poor service.
You’d be hard pressed to find a single instance where Blackburn has stood up to incumbent providers during her 16-year tenure in the house. Blackburn is particularly loyal to AT&T, whose stranglehold over countless state legislatures sometimes teeters on the comical.Blackburn was at the forefront of the attack on popular net neutrality protections last December, blasting attempts to protect a healthy, open and competitive internet as “socialistic.” Blackburn also played a starring role in helping the GOP dismantle important broadband privacy protections at the FCC before they could even take effect last March.She’s also been at the cornerstone of ISP efforts to ban states from building their own broadband networks, rushing to the defense of “states rights” when states try to pass awful protectionist laws protecting Comcast from competition, yet supporting the Trump FCC efforts to block those same states when they try to protect broadband consumers.Shockingly, being an indisputable lackey for some of the least-liked and least-competitive companies in America may be having a negative impact on Blackburn’s poll numbers.A new poll by Middle Tennessee State University finds that Blackburn is trailing her Democratic rival (Former Tennessee Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen) by 10 points as she tries to leap from the House to the Senate. Worries of underperformance have been plaguing Blackburn for months, fueling speculation that Bob Corker (whose seat she hopes to take) may be forced out of retirement to retain the contested seat.Blackburn’s chances weren’t helped when consumer advocacy groups like Fight For the Future placed giant billboards in Blackburn’s home district naming and shaming the lawmaker for selling consumers out on net neutrality and privacy.Most recently, Blackburn, at industry behest, has introduced a fake net neutrality bill so full of loopholes as to be arguably useless. Its real purpose? To prevent tougher state net neutrality rules from taking effect, and to prevent the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules from being restored should the FCC and ISPs lose in court (and there’s a solid chance of that happening).While it’s expected that the FCC’s attack on net neutrality will play some role in the midterms, it’s unclear how large that impact will be. Both community broadband and net neutrality enjoy broad, bipartisan support among consumers, and Blackburn’s mindless defense of AT&T and Comcast policy likely isn’t quite the messaging winner she believes it to be in her own head.After all, our collective disdain of regional monopolies like Comcast and AT&T is one of the very few things that tends to bridge the nation’s deep, partisan divides. Blackburn may just be about to figure that out the hard way.