A Corporate Agenda Motivates The GOP’s Opposition to Net Neutrality

Dec 07 2010 Published by under Featured News

The FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski has released a draft proposal on net neutrality that addresses concerns about the way large Internet providers manage their networks. As usual, a Republican spokesperson has come out against the proposal claiming that the FCC decision is insulting and nothing more than a government takeover because it restricts unfair business practices that deprive consumers and providers equal and unfettered access to the Internet.

According to Genachowski, the proposal is intended to keep the Internet free of control and manipulation by any public or private group. In short, it will put regulations in place to protect consumers and innovators so the Internet remains a free and open means of communication. Genachowski says that, “The proposed framework will bar unreasonable discrimination of lawful Internet traffic.”

The draft proposal’s specifics state that consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic, and it prohibits blocking of connections, content or devices by any public or private entity. It also proposes that no central authority should have the right to pick which ideas or companies win or lose on the Internet, and it should be the role of the marketplace and free market to dictate consumer’s and innovators choices.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sees it differently, and besides calling the proposal insulting, she claims that net neutrality is nothing more than government takeover of the Internet. The congresswoman also claims the FCC doesn’t have the right to regulate or monitor the Internet because according to her; Congress regulates communications. Her primary complaint is that government has no right to regulate or tax anything, much less Internet accessibility. Blackburn complained that in spite of the midterm elections, the Obama Administration is disobeying voters by continuing “the big government power grab that this Whitehouse is addicted to, and will lead to the government owning the Internet.” She claimed that tepid support of the FCC proposal by Internet Service Providers is proof that no one wants Obama to control the Internet.

That is not entirely true. Markham Erickson, the director of the Open Internet Coalition representing companies such as Google, EBay, and Netflix says that the proposal is a strong platform for free speech, innovation, and access, but it is not strong enough. He claims the proposal is a good first step to keep the Internet from becoming like cable television, and is necessary for consumers to remain free to determine where they want to go and what applications they want to use. In other words, he says regulations are necessary to prevent any one company from determining the accessibility of the Internet, and that Representative Blackburn is less than honest. His group strongly supports the FCC commissioners and will work with them to strengthen the proposal even more.

Erickson is not alone in advocating and supporting the FCC proposal. Matthew Polka is president and CEO of the American Cable Association; he supports the FCC proposal saying that Genachowski’s proposal balances consumer-centric interest with the interest of industry, and that only with strong clear regulations in place can consumers have unrestricted access and stability in pricing. His concern is that one provider may restrict access to applications and services owned by them, resulting in a monopoly within a provider.

Once again when a government agency tasked with protecting consumers makes and enforces regulations; Republicans scream government takeover or another Obama power grab. It is just another in a long line of corporate protectionism tactics by Republicans at the cost of consumer protections. Republicans hate any regulations that do not favor the wealthy, banks, or corporations, and their deregulation mantra is predictable. Since Obama has been president they have ratcheted up the government takeover and Socialism argument.

There are rules and regulations for a reason, and it has nothing to do with government takeover or Socialism. People need rules and regulations for protection, and it doesn’t matter if it is wearing seatbelts or selling alcohol to minors, regulations protect the public. When corporations see an opportunity to rape consumers for bigger profits, they will do it simply because they are greedy. If not for regulations enacted and enforced by the FDA, pharmaceutical companies would take shortcuts and put untested medicine on the market and endanger consumers.

It is more evident every day that Republicans want to deregulate every industry so corporations will contribute more to Republicans candidates. It doesn’t matter if it is stripping regulations away from oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico or coal mines in West Virginia, Republicans hate regulations on business. Republicans benefit from regulatory agencies like the FAA who enact regulations to keep airline passengers safe, but if there were enough campaign contributions involved, they most likely would want to deregulate the FAA.

Representative Blackburn’s comments regarding the FCC and Obama Administration’s power grab are standard fare for Republicans, and she represents a dogma that has been deeply rooted in conservative ideology since Ronald Reagan was president. Conversely, it has been Democrats who advocate for consumers and put in place regulations that protect every American, including Republicans.

Blackburn’s claims that voters and Internet industry leaders are against the FCC proposals are lies, and expected from Republicans. Her statement that Genachowski’s proposals hinder access to the Internet are meant to garner support from voters who have no idea what the proposals mean for consumers. Regardless the issue or policy, it is clear that Republicans lie about regulations to frighten voters because their corporate benefactors are frightened of regulations. American consumers should be frightened of conservatives; it is too bad Republican liars are not regulated.

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