Last week Rep. Roy Blunt, in his role as a member of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, which has oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), stood up for the interests of the big communications giants like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T – but to hear him tell it in his press release, he is going to the wall to fight against the “government takeover of the Internet”:
Just like last fall, this federal agency [i.e., the FCC] is trying to side-step our elected representatives in Congress. Once again, this unelected bureaucracy is ruling on an issue that will have a huge impact on the economy and the free flow of information throughout Missouri and across the country. Missourians don’t want more federal regulation of the Internet, they want transparency and freedom to innovate.
What Blunt is talking about is the move by the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, to blunt the effect of the recent Appeals Court ruling, Comcast v. FCC , which found that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband access as long as it is classified as an information service. The FCC does, however, have the authority to reclassify broadband access services as telecommunications services which it can legally regulate, and which Chairman Genachowski has decided to do, although in a very limited fashion.
This relatively narrow exercise of its authority will, nevertheless, permit the FCC to insure basic privacy for Internet users; require that Internet Service providers (ISPs) cannot discriminate in providing access to content that they dislike (such as political blogs, for instance); and require transparency from ISPs about the services they provide and their costs. It will also clear away obstacles that stood in the way of President Obama’s critical National Broadband Plan. Consequently, those of us who think that the Internet is too important to freedom of expression to be turned over to greedy telecoms who are only concerned abut their bottom line are delighted with this turn of events.
That Roy Blunt has chosen to characterize an unexceptional exercise of the FCC’s allocated powers as a “big-government” power grab on the part of an “unelected” official is proof enough that he and the corporate honchos who pay him have no real arguments against net neutrality. But never fear, the use of emotionally loaded doublespeak has worked well with the always volatile members of Blunt’s constituency – I doubt that we will find him worrying overmuch about the accuracy and truthfulness of his rhetoric anytime soon. How else could a man whose record of corruption led Public Citizen’s Congress Watch to to label him “unfit to lead” now try to pass himself off as a defender of the little guy?
In spite of Chairman Genachowski’s recent announcement, the debate is not yet over. Corporate proxies like Blunt will do their best to spread industry misrepresentations while posturing as high-minded saviors of the Internet. I can assure you that Blunt’s press release was only one of the opening salvos. So, if you are not clear about what’s at stake, take a look at this video that briefly explains basic Net Neutrality: