Republican Marsha Blackburn, Congress’s biggest net neutrality opponent who also lists AT&T as one of her most generous campaign contributors, has been elected to the Senate in Tennessee. The results from Tuesday’s midterm vote projected an early lead for Blackburn over Democratic candidate, and former Tennessee Governor, Phil Bredesen.
Blackburn has previously served as a House Representative for Tennessee’s 7th congressional district, where she vehemently opposed net neutrality protections and attempted to block the rules through legislation. She was, of course, in favor of the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to overturn those free internet protections last year, and then helped push through legislation that lifted privacy regulations for ISPs. Her campaigns have long been backed by Big Telecom, with AT&T ranking as one of her top three contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“As long as people vote for candidates controlled by AT&T and Comcast, those companies will control the future of the internet,” Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Community Broadband Networks Initiative, said via email Tuesday night.
In her time on Congress, Blackburn has repeatedly taken anti-consumer stances to protect the telecom industry from regulations, including supporting laws that prevent communities from building their own city-run internet and delivering it like a utility.
Internet access proponents campaigned against Blackburn ahead of the midterms, with consumer advocacy group Fight For the Future even buying out billboards in Blackburn’s home district detailing her connections with Big Telecom and legacy on net neutrality. Bredesen, meanwhile, was enjoying a seemingly optimistic campaign, with polls showing a positive average favorability towards the end of October. His campaign also got an unexpected boost when Taylor Swift endorsed him, and encouraged her fans to get out the vote. But it seems it wasn’t enough to compete with the sway of multi-million dollar ad campaigns backed by major telecom companies.