Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Net Freedom Fighters to Take Charge in Congress

Efforts to save the free and open Internet are a political win according to Nov. 7 election results. And the outlook for better, more public-spirited Internet legislation is now quite good.

Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) -- both strong supporters of Net Neutrality -- are set to take command of telecommunications policy when their party reclaims majority power in the House in January.

According to a report today in Broadcasting & Cable, Dingell said that he will take a new crack at a telecom reform bill, and that it would "clearly" have to better address Net Neutrality and the public interest in general. "Our duty is not just to the Bells, but to good public policy and to protecting the public interest," he told reporters.

Dingell is expected to be seated as chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel that oversees phone, cable operators and Internet companies.

Markey in Charge
Markey will take the helm of the key Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee. He has been an outspoken champion for Net Neutrality. New telecommunications legislation by Dingell and Markey in 2007 would likely include Net Neutrality mandates from the outset.

The victory vindicates soon-to-be-majority leader Nancy Pelosi, who decided over the summer to elevate Net Neutrality in the Democratic Party platform -- a risky move after many a Washington prognosticator declared it a dead issue. Not so.

In the Senate all pro-Net Neutrality Senators won decisive victories in their states. This list includes members of both parties:
>> Sen. Akaka won in Hawaii with 61%
>> Sen. Bingaman won in New Mexico with 70%
>> Sen. Cantwell won in Washington with 58%
>> Sen. Clinton won in New York with 67%
>> Sen. Feinstein won in California with 60%
>> Sen. Kennedy won in Massachussetts with 69%
>> Sen. Menendez won in New Jersey with 53%
>> Sen. Nelson won in Flordia with 60%
>> Sen. Nelson won in Nebraska with 64%
>> Sen. Snowe won in Maine with 73%

They will be joined by newcomers Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), Jim Webb (likely-D-Virginia) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) who have also come out in support of Net Neutrality.

Over the year, more and more politicians came to realize that the public was paying attention to this issue. The blogosphere caught fire and helped shift the momentum in Washington on this issue.

Whereas before, the big telephone companies and their coin-operated lobbyists were confident that Congress would simply roll over and do their bidding, today, no member of Congress can vote with the telecom cartel without full public scrutiny.

The major telecommunications bill pending in the Senate is a massive giveaway to the phone and cable companies, and should be blocked during the lame duck Congress. It’s time to start from scratch in 2007, and begin having a genuine public debate about what the future of the media and the Internet should look like.

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