by Matt Stoller, Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 08:57:09 PM EDT
Basically, you've got two groups working to stop the sellout of the internet to private interests, and three working against it. Here they are:
Congress: The Sell-Outs
Telco's pump massive amounts of money into lobbying efforts and political campaigns. Just in 2004, the United States Telecom Association pumped $14 million into lobbying efforts alone.
Both Republican and Democratic Congressman, like Bobby Rush and Joe Barton, are susceptable to this money. Congressmen in this group tend to have either longstanding relationships with the telecom lobby, are reliable party line votes, or aren't really paying attention.
Congress: Freedom Fighters
These are Congressmen like Rich Boucher, Heather Wilson, Ed Markey, Byron Dorgan, and Olympia Snowe, who are doing the right thing in keeping the internet open. These politicians tend to be populist in orientation and quite skeptical towards concentrated centers of power, like telco cartels. Until now, they have not had a great deal of firepower behind them.
The Telco Cartel and Their Lobbyists
This is a bipartisan corporate insider contigent - these are rather disingenuous people like Mike McCurry, former Clinton spokesperson, who is now a lobbyist. This group engages in three basic tactics:
- Aggressive lobbying and campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats
- Astroturfing fake popular support for their effort through web sites like The Future Faster and Hands off the Internet (or HOTI).
- Misleading arguments to make the public think that the telco cartel is in favor an open and free internet
This includes companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc - corporate giants that seek to build innovative services and software on top of an open and free internet, and who have created amazing value over the past twenty years.
It also includes small businesses that are innovating in their industries using the internet and don't want to have to secure permission from a telecommunications company to do so.
These are ordinary citizens like Gun Owners of America, Moveon, Instapundit, Public Knowledge, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed the petition to keep the internet open and free.
How the Fight Will Play Out
There are several rounds in this fight, the the strategy for victory is to demonstrate that there is popular support for a free and open internet and then convince Congressmen to vote for it. The vote first goes to the House, and then the Senate. We only need to stop the telcos in one of a series of votes.
The House fight, where the vote count looks tough, will take place this week. Both Committees where the legislation will be hashed out are in all likelihood stacked against us, as is the House itself. The goal here is to show Congress that there is popular outrage, and to get members positioned to vote with us the next time this is brought up for a vote.
Next comes the Senate. Should we demonstrate momentum during the House fight, the Senate will perk up demonstrably. There may be hearings on this issue, and a Committee vote where we can have impact. We can also have impact on the full Senate vote. We have allies in the Senate, but they are being lobbied hard by telecom lobbyists who have longstanding relationships with them.
If they believe that there is a large coalition of concerned citizens and businesses fighting for a free and open internet, we will win this fight.