‘Save the Internet Act’ Passes First House Test

A bill, spearheaded by Democrats in the House of Representatives to restore Obama-era net neutrality guidelines regulating the Internet as a utility, March 26 passed a panel vote, 18-11, along party lines to advance to a full committee vote.

If the “Save the Internet Act,” which would restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality guidelines mandating all Internet traffic be treated equally, passes the House, it would have to be reconciled with the Senate and then signed by President Trump – the latter not likely considering his FCC chairman pick, Ajit Pai, initiated rollback of the regulations in 2017.

Republicans argue net neutrality guidelines would give the government too much control of the Internet. Some have looped the bill with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal economic stimulus program that includes climate change and income equality, among other issues.

“I’m disappointed that we’re considering this proposal, which [is] like so many other things like the Green New Deal and all these other plans to have more government control over our everyday lives,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) countered that without net neutrality, there is “no backstop” safeguarding consumers from corporations.

Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy lawyer at Public Knowledge, said that since the Trump-era FCC repealed its Open Internet Order in 2017, broadband providers have “slowly and carefully” moved to undermine net neutrality in their business practices and their advocacy.

“We urge members of the House to support this bill and encourage every American to demand that their Representatives vote to approve it immediately,” he wrote.

Amazon Nixes Second HQ Plans in New York

Amazon has dropped plans to build a second headquarter in New York City — citing local and regional political opposition.

Freshman House representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had been critical of the project, citing union issues and possible displacement of families due to construction.

The sprawling headquarters slated for Long Island City, Queens had pledged to employ about 25,000 people in exchange for $3 billion in local and city tax benefits.

The New York location, which culminated in a widely publicized two-year search by Amazon to locate a second HQ to its Seattle headquarters, had met increasing local political pushback since its announcement. Critics argued against spending tax dollars to support one the wealthiest companies in the world.

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“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” Amazon said in a statement.

The ecommerce behemoth said moving forward with the project required “positive, collaborative relationships” with state and local elected officials.

Amazon said that while polls indicated 70% of New Yorkers supported the headquarters, a number of state and local politicians “made it clear” they opposed the idea and would not work with the company.

“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture — and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents,” Amazon said.

There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and Amazon said it plans to “grow” these teams.

Amazon said it does not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time, and would proceed as planned office locations in Northern Virginia and Nashville.

“We will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” said the company.

Netflix Acquires Sundance Award Winning Political Doc ‘Knock Down the House’

Netflix has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary Knock Down the House, which chronicles the campaigns of four female progressive candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, against powerful incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Sundance Institute also announced Knock Down the House as the winner of the Festival Favorite Award, selected by audience votes from the 121 features screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

The film, directed by Rachel Lears and produced by Lears, Robin Blotnick, and Sarah Olson, also features Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin.

When tragedy struck her family in the midst of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her home from foreclosure. After losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, Amy Vilela didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush was drawn into the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. Paula Jean Swearengin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer and die from the environmental effects of the coal industry. At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, Knock Down the House follows these four women as they decide to fight back despite having no political experience.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Netflix on the release of Knock Down the House,” said director Lears, who also co-wrote the film in addition to producing, in a statement. “This platform will allow us to reach huge audiences worldwide, including viewers who may not usually watch independent documentaries. We’re also very excited to be working with Netflix on a campaign to spark wider cultural conversations about our democracy and how it can continue to evolve.”

“It is a transcendent moment when skilled filmmakers are able to train their lens on a major transformation,” said Lisa Nishimura, VP of Original Documentaries for Netflix, in a statement. “With intimacy and immediacy, Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnik, bring viewers to the front lines of a movement, as four women find their voice, their power and their purpose, allowing all of us to witness the promise of true democracy in action.”