Squishy House Dems to Sell Us Out on Internet Freedom?
by Matt Stoller, Wed May 31, 2006 at 08:44:43 AM EDT
Last week was a big week for the internet freedom folks. We won a vote in the Judiciary Committee for the Sensenbrenner-Conyers Bill (HR5417) to preserve internet freedom. For those who haven't been following, the basic gist of the issue is that the government has always set basic rules for the wires that carry internet traffic. These rules don't let the telcos that manage those wires block anyone's traffic, and we want to keep it that way. The telcos want to be able to block traffic and web sites so they can favor some services over others, so they want to strip the FCC of the authority they have to enforce these rules. The business and political case is clear. Senior telco execs have publicly discussed slowing down Google's web site if Yahoo pays them, for instance. There are political implications as well; a Canadian ISP have blocked the web site of a union striking against them. Telcos have always hated the internet, and now that they see the opportunity to put up tollbooths everywhere and make the internet work as clunkily as cell phone service, they are trying to seize it through their massive political leverage.
Ok, so we won on the vote last week with nearly all Democrats voting for the bill and 5 Repulicans coming to our side. HR5417 now goes to the Rules Committee, which determines when and whether bills go to the floor. The Rules Committee is a small and corrupt body controlled by Republican leadership, and rarely allows bill to the floor that the Republican leaders don't like. And Hastert is whipping hard against internet freedom, and the Rules Committee is more his turf than it is Sensenbrenner's.
The danger here is that the conflict between the Rules Committee and the Judiciary Committee produces a meaningless substitute bill, and some squishy Dem like Bill Delahunt sells us out and cosponsors it (Weiner is another possibility since he had reservations about the bill). That bill can then go to the floor and House Democrats will then vote for it while whimpering that it's the only pro-net neutrality legislation they had the opportunity to vote for.
This is where we are now. Of course, we never expected to be able to put up a fight in the House period, so this is exceptional. But be aware that we could be sold out on this.
The telcos are desperate to get something through Congress this year, because they are watching the growing list of candidates who are running on this issue. They never expected this to be a voting issue. I've created a special web page for 'internet freedom' candidates, and I've added Linda Stender in New Jersey's seventh Congressional district.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on Al Wynn in Maryland's 4th district, and his primary challenger Donna Edwards. Wynn is a seriously bad guy, and Edwards is very well-respected.