Dec 20, 2010

Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality: "Worse Than Nothing"

By Timothy Karr / huffingtonpost.com

Late Monday, a majority of the FCC's commissioners indicated that they're going to vote with Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule.

According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow's FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet.

The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users.

Welcome to AT&T's Internet

For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.

Instead of a rule to protect Internet users' freedom to choose, the Commission has opened the door for broadband payola - letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

Instead of protecting openness on wireless Internet devices like the iPhone and Droid, the Commission has exempted the mobile Internet from Net Neutrality protections. This move enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others.

Instead of re-establishing the FCC's authority to act as a consumer watchdog over the Internet, it places the agency's authority on a shaky and indefensible legal footing -- giving ultimate control over the Internet to a small handful of carriers.

Obama's 'Mission Accomplished'

Internet users deserve far better, and we thought we were going to get it from a president who promised to "take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality." Watch as he and his FCC chairman try to spin tomorrow's betrayal as another "mission accomplished."

Don't believe it. This bogus victory has become all too familiar to those watching the Obama administration and its appointees squander opportunities for real change. The reality is that reform is just a rhetorical front for industry compromises that reward the biggest players and K-Street lobbyists while giving the public nothing.

It's not the FCC chairman's job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users.

More than two million people have taken action on behalf of Net Neutrality. Tomorrow, we'll all get the carpet yanked from beneath our feet.

Net Neutrality is the freedom of speech, freedom of choice issue of the 21st century. It's the guarantee of a more open and democratic media system that was baked into the Internet at its founding.

On Tuesday, Obama's FCC is going to sell that out.

 

Follow Timothy Karr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TimKarr

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