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Northwest net neutrality

Imagine a few years hence an Internet that looks a whole lot like cable TV. That your main local provider – who has gotten from federal law the muscle to shove aside the little guys – is able to limit your choices in where you can go on the web, blocking sites at will (including those it simply doesn’t like, or that conflicts with corporate imperatives), or charges web providers fees (which it can set at will) for access . . . or maybe for access at anything other than verrry slow speed. Imagine an Internet no longer wide open, “net neutral,” the way we’ve come to know it.

Sound improbable? That’s exactly what the “Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006” (opportunity, promotion and enhancement of the telcos, that is – not for the rest of us) would do. A description (accurate in our opinion, of the measure’s end goals) from the anti-COPE group Save the Internet:

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.

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.

This site is about the Northwest, and our point here is to note that three Northwest House members who voted Wednesday on COPE in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which passed it 34-22 to the House floor: Jay Inslee of Washington, Greg Walden of Oregon and C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho. Two of them have some explaining to do.

Democrat Inslee voted for “net neutrality” and against COPE, while Republicans Walden and Otter voted the other way. Should be noted here, though, that the issue is not party-line; the leading advocates for the measure include a number of Democrats.

Whoever they are, the advocates of COPE – backers of a law that would allow one industry to censor communications for all the rest of us, one of the worst abominations of a Congress guilty of more than its share of foulness – should be ashamed of themselves. There is, simply, no defense of this legislation as being in the public interest; it is solely and purely a greedy reach by one industry to enrich and empower itself. It is indefensible. It is a dagger at the heart of our freedoms: Our ability freely to communicate with each other.

In the most recent election cycle, Otter’s federal campaign reports say he has taken in so far $12,500 from the communications industry, the second largest business sector in his roster. In his campaign for governor, he more than doubled that amount in 2005 alone; we don’t yet know what the telecom industry has paid this year. Those amounts are not extraordinary; presumably, he was lobbied hard.

Walden, running for re-election this year, has reported $53,900 in receipts from the communications/electronics sector so far this cycle. Those include one of his biggest contributions overall, $10,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association – but there’s much more. But one presumes the lobbying of Walden was intense as well.

Otter and Walden, who are known for peppering their speeches with references to freedom and liberty, have opened themselves up for serious questions about whose freedom and liberty they’re really interested in supporting.

Unless, of course, they reverse their tack when the COPE bill comes up for a vote on the House floor.

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One Comment

  1. Ralph Ralph April 27, 2006

    Someone ought to tell Otter’s opponent in the race for governor. Might as well be me.

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