Proponents of network neutrality will engage in hand-to-hand political combat next week, as the Barton-Rush broadbanditry bill comes to a vote on the House floor. Led by Rep. Ed Markey, the Democrats have apparently awakened from their slumber on network neutrality. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi now plans to co-sponsor the Markey amendment. Ms. Pelosi, Rep. Boucher and others are seeking a ruling to bring the neutrality amendment for a vote. It is also reported that the Democrats will offer an amendment on what is called â€œbuild-out.â€ This would help redress somewhat the plans of AT&T and Verizon to engage in economic redlining; these giants only desire to initially serve the most affluent customers (leaving low-income and others behind).
A sharp, very public, debate over network neutrality is greatly needed. Thatâ€™s why we hope everyone will also speak out by sending word to Congress on where you stand on the issue (see SavetheInternet.org). Members of Congress need to make it clear. Are they for the handful of cable and phone giants who are engaged in a digital power grab of the Internet in the U.S.? Or will they side with Internet users and the general public?
But the entire Barton-Rush â€œTelco/Cable Broadband Monopoly Enrichment Act of 2006â€ has been written to ultimately benefit a few special interests. Itâ€™s not really a forward thinking broadband bill. It does nothing to address equitable access by the poor and low income Americans to the Internet; fails to protect online privacy; and undermines local accountability. Yesterday, we covered some of these issues for The Nation and Alternet.
Finally, it appears every day some other â€œprominentâ€ academic or scholar comes to the aid of the Bells or cable lobby. Yesterday, it was Dr. John Rutledge, a self-described â€œleading free-market economistâ€ in the U.S. Rutledge dismissed network neutrality as a â€œcontrived issue.â€ What is contrived is certainly the failure of Dr. Rutledge in his press release to identify the political and financial links he has to the cable and phone lobby. Dr. Rutledge is on the board of the telco/cable backed Progress and Freedom Foundation and the Heartland Institute. The failure of Dr. Rutledge to disclose in his pro Bell/cable release these and other commercial ties illustrates why Congress should pass a â€œFess Up, Academics and Nonprofits on the Corporate Doleâ€ consumer protection act.