Democrats Come Out For Net Neutrality
Though Net Neutrality is not a partisan issue, as evidenced by bipartisan support outside of Congress, primary support (but not all of it) for enshrining what is called the Internet’s First Amendment has come from Democratic legislators. Matt Stoller, blogging for Open Left, is proud to tell everyone, then, his campaign to get 16 Democratic Senate challengers in this year’s election season on board for the cause is a success.
Though conservatives and liberals have joined hands on the Net Neutrality issue—think back to the shocking show of solidarity between the Christian Coalition and MoveOn.org—the majority of Congressional Republicans have blocked progress. If you’re a one-issue voter, then it’s good news on par with the idea somebody might just do something about it instead of stepping to the music of their telecom puppeteers.
Net Neutrality, for a fresh change, is not an ideological conflict regarding the boundaries of government involvement and authority. It’s Netizens (including small business owners, educators, nonprofits, activists, community organizations) versus a handful of very powerful, very well-funded corporate entities. It’s a matter of whether you want more Googles, more YouTubes, more Facebooks, more (the same) freedom to use the Internet you have thus far enjoyed, or do you want AT&T or Comcast deciding how you use it and whose voice has the best chance of being heard.
Don’t think of it, then, as the rest of this piece focuses on Democratic contenders, activists, and incumbents, as an issue Republicans must be against if Democrats are for it. Think of it as an opportunity to demand of Republican hold-outs to be "with us or against us." Think of it as an opportunity to send a message that campaign contributors and lobbyists do not always speak for what the country wants, and they’d better get on board. If it’s a close race in November, this could be yet another issue contributing to the further culling of Republican ideals from Congress as candidates demonstrate where their loyalties lie—with you, or with corporate special interests.
Stoller targeted 13 Democratic contenders for Senate who had some money to actually run and he reached a milestone this week. All 13 pledged support for Net Neutrality, bringing the total to 16. Three of them even have a little (or a lot) of telco money in their coffers. Those contenders pledging support are: Allen in Maine, Begich in Arkansas, Al Franken in Minnesota, Hagen in North Carolina, Kleeb in Nebraska, LaRocco in Idaho, Lunsford in Kentucky, Merkley in Oregon, Musgrove in Mississippi, Noriega in Texas, Rice in Oklahoma, Shaeen in New Hampshire, Slattery in Kansas, Udall in Colorado, Udall in New Mexico, and Warner in Virginia.
Lunsford in Kentucky is an interesting addition to that list. Lunsford, as any good challenger would, singles out Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell as "one of the reasons that bills with net neutrality language have stalled in congress." Lunsford—whose viable candidacy in Kentucky many still doubt, but it’s a long way to November—pledges support for " needed consumer-friendly telecommunications reform."
Stoller managed to wrangle statement after statement from Democratic challengers, sitting government officials, and major Net Neutrality influencers. We’ve chosen a few nice ones to print here, even if a few names will likely cause some interesting adverse reactions within conservative stomachs. With any luck, there’ll be some Republican statements popping up any day now. After the "thumpin’" they took two years ago, it might be a good idea to identify some issues that can truly cross the political aisle and get behind them—if for nothing else, to steal a little heroism from the other side.
Tim Wu, Professor at Columbia Law School, who coined the term: "Net neutrality is slowly becoming one of those political sacraments. It’s not like Social Security yet, but it’s getting there. The basic principle of a fair and open internet is the kind of thing you’d have to hate apple pie to be against."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Since its inception, the internet has been characterized by its openness – its freedom – its equality. Without net neutrality, America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs could be left in the slow lane with inferior internet service, unable to compete with the big corporations that can pay internet providers toll charges to be in the fast lane. Bloggers could be silenced by skyrocketing costs to post and share video and audio clips.
Scott Kleeb (NE): "The internet is to the 21st century what electricity was to my grandparents in rural Nebraska in the 1940s and 1950s. It is critical that we support policies that further expand opportunities rather than eliminate access. Net neutrality is an important component of our American tradition of information exchange."
Al Franken (MN): Al strongly supports net neutrality (it’s one of the many subjects he discussed on his radio show), and will vote to protect it in the Senate. He believes that it’s essential to preserving the free flow of information and keeping this last great marketplace of ideas open. We can’t allow that to be tainted by telecomm companies that think they can make a few bucks restricting or encouraging access to certain content.
Jeanne Shaheen (NH): The internet’s role in our daily lives has grown exponentially in the last dozen years. It has created opportunities that we could not even imagine before: children, in their homes and classrooms, can study the universe as if they were visiting in a NASA telescope, families can read about medical advances as if they are sitting in the best medical libraries, and small businesses can find suppliers and buyers across the country and compete with larger corporations.