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Donkey snouts at the telco trough

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday April 25, 2006 08:32 PM

David Sirota indignantly writes:
Since my book, Hostile Takeover, is a look at how both parties engage in corruption, people have asked me a lot lately for good examples of exactly who is leading the Hostile Takeover of the Democratic Party on behalf of Big Money interests. While there are certainly a lot of examples, today it seems the best example comes in the form of Mike McCurry. The former Clinton press secretary, who appears throughout the media billed as a party strategist, is now using his skills to try to destroy the Internet on behalf of the big telecom companies.
I love the shocked, stunned way way people talk about the corporate "takeover" of the Democratic Party -- when exactly did this happen, David? Last week? But that's not really my point here. Of course it's delightful, and far from surprising, that a Clintonoid sleazeball like McCurry should be whoring for corporate America. But what Sirota neglects to mention is that our friends the Congressional Democrats are -- as usual -- doing their bit too.

Congressman Joe Barton of Texas has introduced a thing called the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act (COPE) -- don't you love these titles? Barton chairs the Telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee (of the Energy and Commerce Committee -- God, what a labyrinth of pettifoggery). His co-sponsor is, naturally, a Democrat, Bobby Rush, from Illinois. The technical details are tedious, but savetheinternet.com sums it up pretty well:

"Network neutrality" ... ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

But Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut Net Neutrality....

Net neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. With net neutrality, the network's only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service....

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.

The Barton/Rush bill, of course, was written to telco order, and allows the fiber barons to extort whatever the traffic will bear in order to let your content through.

For some no doubt celestially reasonable reason, this bill doesn't have a number, and the usual Congressional sites aren't recording votes. But as near as I can make out, of the twelve Democrats on the subcommittee who have voted one way or the other on this shining example of government giveaway to corporations, five have been supporting it:

  • Albert Wynn (MD)
  • Charles Gonzalez (TX)
  • Edolphus Towns (NY)
  • Bobby Rush (IL)
  • Bart Stupak (MI)
My favorite, of course, is Towns -- if ever a guy deserved a place of honor in the Soup Hound Hall Of Fame, he's it.

Comments (3)

MJS, thanks. I cross-posted your link to my LJ. Backtracks are acting all wierd, but if you go to livejournal.com and type in "ms_xeno" you can see it.

FWIW, MoveOn is also in opposition to the bill, or so they say. Also, when I searched for our Demo Senator's view on the issue, here's what popped up.

...Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) plans to introduce additional legislation this week that would prevent the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from hindering traffic from outside its network and giving its own content preferential treatment. As Sen. Wyden describes it, his legislation would "make sure all information (transmitted over broadband networks) is made available on the same terms so that no bit is better than another one."

That would put a serious thorn in the paw of AT&T, which has vigorously advocated for a tiered Internet. AT&T CEO Edward Whitacre has accused Google, Microsoft, and just about every non-AT&T entity or customer of freeloading on the company's infrastructure. According to AT&T, since it provides the infrastructure, someone needs to pay for the traffic that traverses it. What he failed to mention is that AT&T's customers do exactly that. They pay a monthly fee for access to all of the Internet, not just AT&T's content, and not just to some mystical point at the intersection of AT&T's fiber and the Internet "cloud."

Consumers and other 'Net content providers rightly fear that the telcos and other ISPs could hinder some traffic, resulting in a degradation of service quality. Is that happening already? Some Vonage users who use Comcast as their ISP think so. Comcast has recently rolled out its own "triple play" of data, voice, and video, leading many to wonder if the cable giant is deliberately putting Vonage traffic at a disadvantage in hopes of growing its own VoIP service... --Eric Bangeman

Mind you, Ron Wyden is still a weasel, but as with MoveOn, he is a weasel with at least some grasp of what self-preservation actually means...


Oh yeah, the Dems are very divided on this one. The interesting part of the phenomenon, as usual, is the aisle-crossers -- that 40% or so, if present patterns hold, who will get a free pass to vote with the telcos. The virtuous 60% will moan and groan but impose no punishment on the 40.

Well, they don't believe in purges. They believe in harassing Nader and the other voluntary exiles. Even a symbolic shunning of that 40% would risk upsetting a huge number of powerful people and their big wallets. Whereas we stragglers are a tiny, cheap bloc and easy to get under the heel for cathartic stomping. That's our primary purpose on the modern scene, it would seem. If we don't want to join the DP rank-and-file as waterboys, our only other option is to serve as their tackling dummies.

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