Republican accidentally saves Net Neutrality

Borrowed from Ars Tecnica

For years, Republicans have objected to a little thing called “Net Neutrality”.

What is Net Neutrality? It’s an idea that governs much of the Internet today, that says all traffic, no matter what type or where it’s going or where it’s from, must be treated equally. It gives everyone on the ‘net an equal shot at competing for your attention, and prevents network owners from colluding to censor content or unfairly compete with smaller firms.

There’s a reason many have called it the “First Amendment of the Internet”.

You’d think, with a Democratic congress and a Democrat in the White House, something would be done to accomplish this. While there have been steps taken, namely President Obama’s selection of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, powerful Democrats in Congress appear to have conspired against the proposals their own party and constituents support.

Key to the passage and enforcement of Net Neutrality rules is a reclassification of broadband Internet, both wired and wireless, as “universal” services under Title II of the Communications Act. Both Obama and Genachowski are in favor of doing this, as are many House Democrats.

Enter Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who was pledging allegiance to Net Neutrality this time last year. Today he sings a different tune, putting forward legislative text under the banner of neutrality that would actually enshrine proposals by the telecom industry that block the government from enforcing neutrality rules.

You’d think this would be a no-nonsense ‘yes’ vote from Republicans — a vote to kill that pesky Net Neutrality issue until the end of 2012, potentially placing it beyond the reach of the Obama administration.

Yes, you’d think. — that’s not to say the GOP would too.

Rep. Joe Barton, a real Republican stick in the mud from Texas, blocked Waxman’s bill at the committee level, saying he and colleagues want to pass a more permanent solution.

Amazingly, in a statement explaining why he killed a bill that would effectively prevent the FCC from issuing meaningful regulations, Barton … blasted efforts to regulate the Internet.

“This is not a solution for the future of the Internet,” he said, according to C-Net. “America should be about preserving the vibrant and competitive free market that exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by federal or state regulation.”

I’m shocked to write this today but Joe Barton has just saved Net Neutrality, seemingly on accident. This gives advocates another chance to rally their troops and throw all in for the Internet Freedom and Preservation Act, which has languished in committee (thanks to Waxman) since July of last year.

Of course, when we’re talking about a political party that once put Ted Stevens in charge of policy affecting the world-wide-web (the “series of tubes,” as he called it), this maybe shouldn’t be a surprise.

Or maybe I’m just a fool, but I don’t think so. ;O)

–Stephen

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