A Letter to the Verizon/AT&T Five

I've been asked for background, so here goes. This post refers to a vote on internet freedom (or 'net neutrality') that took place in a House Committee today. Right now your broadband ISP isn't really allowed to block legal web sites or services to their customers. A law that passed in a House Committee today lets them. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's the gist. Pretty soon your broadband provider will be allowed to block Google, Vonage, or your favorite blog if a competitor pays them, if they develop a competing service, or if they just don't like you. This sort of undermines the whole internet thing, and I'm fighting against it. More info is at Savetheinternet.com. These five people I'm highlighting are the Democrats who voted against a free internet, and I'd like you to call them up and let them know that their vote against the Markey Amendment (that's what the amendment was called) is simply outrageous. They need to know people are mad.

Dear Verizon/ATT Five,

I know how much you enjoy getting campaign contributions from telecommunications interests, and I hope that you find yourself swimming in contributions.  I mean, you've earned it, since voting against freedom on the internet isn't going to get you many fans.  I'm also glad you're so accessible to your constituents, and I've taken the liberty to list the amount of money you received from cable and telephone interests, as well as your office's phone number.

  1. Ed Towns (NY-10) received $22,000 from cable and telecom company interests.  I'm glad I can you reach you at (202) 225-5936.

  2. Al Wynn (MD-04) received $19,100 from cable and telecom company interests.  I'm glad I can you reach you at (202) 225-8699.

  3. Charlie Gonzales: (TX-20) received $16,500 from cable and telecom company interests.  I'm glad I can you reach you at (202) 225-3236.

  4. Bobby Rush: (IL-01) received $21,000 from cable and telecom company interests.  I'm glad I can you reach you at (202) 225-4372.

  5. Gene Green: (TX-29) received $12,000 from cable and telecom company interests.  I'm glad I can you reach you at (202) 225-1688 tel.

It's hard work to make hundreds of thousands of internet users really really mad.  But you persevered, and in all likelihood your reelection campaigns will be that much richer.  Congrats, guys, you made Santa's naughty list.  

Oh yeah, and incidentally Blogpac is making a list of people to primary and people to make nice with in 2008.  You know, the PAC for the internets, which is raising money here.  

love,

The Internets

PS.  And as an aside, we didn't include Eliot Engel (NY-17) and Bart Stupak (MI-01) on this list, because they changed their votes and decided to protect freedom on the internet.  The other Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Republican Heather Wilson of New Mexico, voted to protect the internet as well.  Thanks.  They can be thanked and should be thanked here.

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House Committee Vote Results: The Momentum Shifts in Our Favor

Ok, so the vote on the Markey amendment to protect the internet has happened, and it was voted down, 34-22.  That is a big deal.  It's too bad we lost the vote, but we expected that loss.  What we did not expected was the narrow margin.  By way of comparison, the subcommittee vote was 23-8, which means we should have gotten blown out of the water.  We did not.  All four targeted Dems by McJoan on Daily Kos flipped to our side, and many of the Congressmen both for and against this campaign mentioned the blogs and angry constituents.  

There's a white hot firestorm on the issue on Capitol Hill.  No one wants to see the telcos make a radical change to the internet and screw this medium up, except, well, the telcos.  And now members of Congress are listening to us.  The telcos have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and many years lobbying for their position; we launched four days ago, and have closed a lot of ground.  Over the next few months, as the public wakes up, we'll close the rest of it.  

I watched the markup and the voting, and there was noticeable defensiveness among Congressmen on the wrong side of this.  They are wrong, they know it, and they are ashamed.  Now they know people are watching.  So we didn't win this vote, but this close margin was nonetheless a smack to the jaw of the insiders, and a clear victory for the people.  Now the battle moves out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and onto more favorable terrain.

As Sean-Paul said to me over email, "today was a victory as a few key players on the full committee changed their votes. Important action is required heading into the Senate but we have created significant momentum and the telco cartel is very afraid of us now.

This is not how they wanted it to go down. They wanted this amendment to fail quietly, so the Senate would not take it up. We changed the rules today. Great work."

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Tim Wu on Internet Freedom and Net Neutrality

This is Tim Wu's testimony.  It's long but worthwhile.

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Telco Slush for Bobby Rush (IL-01)

Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times writes today of a "$1 million grant from the charitable arm of SBC/AT&T" to a community center founded by Congressman Bobby Rush (IL-01)

She points out that:

On Wednesday, the energy and commerce panel on which Rush sits is set to vote on a controversial rewrite of telecommunications law co-sponsored by Rush and backed by major phone companies eager to compete with cable television companies.

Yes, this is the nortorious "Barton-Rush bill" where Rush was one of the Democrats on the Committee who voted against a provision guaranteeing "net neutrality".

Sweet continues:

Rush, asked to explain whether he had a conflict in sponsoring telecommunications legislation in the wake of the grant, replied in a statement that the "real conflict" stems from inequities in the telecommunications marketplace that hurt the poor

Since his bill is geared primarily to relieving the "inequities" that hurt the telecos, apparently "pay-back" for the "poor" is coming through backdoor channels like the community center.

When the Teleco Cartel flexs its muscles, this is one of the ways they do it.

Save the Internet!  Save the Internet!  Save the Internet!

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Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry is deceiving the public, and its making my blood boil. With this Op-Ed in the Washington Times and this one on MyDD on behalf of the telco cartel, McCurry shows himself as either willfully dishonest in the debate over Internet freedom or just plain cluesless. Now, to be clear, working as a lobbyist for telecommunications companies is fine. As he explained in a comment on MyDD, he's just paying his mortgage. What's NOT fine is that he's misrepresenting the fight. McCurry is pretending to uphold the Clinton legacy on the internet.From MyDD:

I joined the effort opposing regulated net neutrality because, contrary to what you write, it's absolutely consistent with the Clinton Administration's policies toward the Internet. The Internet became a true mass-market medium during our eight years…These so-called "net neutrality" regulations would completely undercut this legacy.
And from the Washinton Times:
In my view, we're far better off continuing on the sound path the Clinton Administration established.
We agree we need to continue down the path of the Clinton/Gingrich years. So that’s not the issue. The issue is: Who in this debate stands on the side of the Clinton legacy of a free and open Internet where the little guy can turn a small idea into a big idea online? The giant telecom cartel? Not exactly. You see, what McCurry did not tell the public was that during the Clinton years, the FCC actively enforced net neutrality — the Internet’s First Amendment – against his telecom clients. Common carrier statutes have in fact been a bedrock principle of telecommunications law since 1934, and in 1996 Congress ratified that with a commitment to network neutrality. Yet less than a year ago, in August, 2005, the Clinton -Gingrich policy of enforced network neutrality was radically upended by the FCC:

The FCC said that phone companies such as Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, Qwest and other local telcos will no longer be regulated by traditional telephone rules when it comes to their DSL broadband services.  The FCC agreed unanimously to classify DSL broadband as an "information service" rather than a telephone service. Phone companies will no longer be required open their broadband networks to access by third-party ISPs.

After a one-year transition period, the phone companies can arbitrarily end any agreements they were forced to make with independent ISPs. During the transition year, the ISPs can attempt to negotiate new deals, but the cards are all in the hands of the telcos.

In other words, you know all that nice Clinton-Gingrich policy that made the internet work?  Yeah, after a one year transition period, that's gone, as a sort of sunset provision for the free internet sets.  This is incredibly sneaky.  What McCurry is doing is couching a radical change to the internet in the guise of the status quo.

McCurry knows that due to the actions of the industry he represents, we are in the waning months of the Clinton/Gingrich-era internet, where telcos are forced to treat everyone fairly. In three months, we won't be there anymore unless Congress passes Net Neutrality legislation. It's funny how the telcos want Congress to cement the FCC’s radical change to the Clinton/Gingrich era into the law while no one's looking – all while pretending others are advocating such radical change. And McCurry's treatment of this fact is simplistic and gallingly deceptive.

The Internet, now in its adolescence, is healthy and growing nicely. There is not even the slightest hint of illness... Having government now step in to administer treatments would be bad bureaucratic medicine.

That is absolutely false. The government did step in, a year ago, and the changes are going to take effect in three months. In other words, if we do not revert back to the Clinton-Gingrich policies that protected network neutrality, the free internet as we know it has three months to live.

Now, Mike McCurry is a nice and a smart guy, and I have a lot of respect for him and his communications skills. The problem is that here he's operating in bad faith. He might just be lying, or he might be just too clueless to know any better.  It doesn't really matter; McCurry just shouldn't be involved in public policy in this area.  Anyone who pretends that a massive giveaway to anti-competitive private interests is somehow a continuation of the status quo is not fit to responsibly create policy around something as vital as the internet.

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