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Sen. Al Franken at Netroots Nation 2010, warning against the looming corporate takeover of the Internet.

Congressional Republicans have stated their intention to use the Congressional Review Act to prevent implementation of any number of executive branch rules, in addition to taking any number of regulatory hostages with the threat of a government shutdown. The CRA gives the GOP-controlled House the opportunity to pass "resolutions of disapproval" on any number of regulations. It also gives the obstructionist GOP in the Senate the ability to force votes on them, requiring only a simple majority to pass.

High on the list (because they love democracy and freedom?) of regulations they want to block is net neutrality. Under that looming threat, four Democratic Senators have written to Congressional leadership to try get the Senate to not play along.

In a letter they're circulating to colleagues, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) say the Senate should not lend support to House GOP efforts to block the rules.
We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job. The House has included an amendment to the continuing resolution to deny the agency funds for implementing a recent order to protect the open Internet. And they are talking about moving forward with a Congressional Review Act resolution to achieve the same end. We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate.

..."Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet," the senators write. "But if the amendment the House passed is not struck or if their CRA effort is successful, they will."

It's going to take 51 Senators to stop what's an already weak Net Neutrality rule from being scrapped altogether, giving phone and cable companies essentially unfettered reign over Internet speech. Which is apparently the definition of "Internet freedom" for the GOP—whatever AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast tell them it is.

The full letter is below the fold.

Dear Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job. The House has included an amendment to the continuing resolution to deny the agency funds for implementing a recent order to protect the open Internet. And they are talking about moving forward with a Congressional Review Act resolution to achieve the same end. We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate. Such action aims to strip the FCC of its legal authority over modern communications and hand control of the Internet over to the owners of the wires that deliver information and services over them.

There are those who claim to oppose the order because Congress should write a new law to deal with broadband communications instead. We are willing and interested in working with our colleagues on modernization of the Communications Act. But that does not mean that the agency should stop doing its job under current law. And we challenge those opposing the order to produce an alternative framework. In the absence of doing so, we can only conclude the effort is intended to provide for a fully deregulated communications industry placing consumers, entrepreneurship on the Internet, and our basic freedom to communicate at risk.

For background, after more than a year of examination and deliberation, the FCC -- the agency Congress created in 1934 and reaffirmed in 1996 to provide Americans with fair and equitable access to communications over wire and airwaves -- approved an order to establish network neutrality ground rules. Those rules, clearly in the public interest, lay down guidelines for how telephone and cable companies can treat information that travels over their wires and connect Americans to the Internet. It very clearly does not regulate that information any more than the regulation of telephone service regulates what Americans can say to each other or whom they can call or not call.

The final network neutrality rules, to the credit of Chairman Genachowski, are built on things everyone should support - transparency of broadband service operations, no blocking of legal content and websites, and nondiscrimination against or for specific firms or people trying to communicate and compete over the Internet. In the wake of the order, the original investors in Google and Netflix, the father of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee, a host of companies, venture capitalists, and hundreds of thousands of users of the Internet expressed their approval.

Unfortunately, the House has decided that it knows better what is good for the Internet than the people who use, fund, and work on it. They claim to stand for freedom. But the only freedom they are providing for is the freedom of telephone and cable companies to determine the future of the Internet, where you can go on it, what you can attach to it, and which services will win or lose on it.

Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet. But if the amendment the House passed is not struck or if their CRA effort is successful, they will.

Sincerely,
Cc:
The Honorable Dan Inouye, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Thad Cochran, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

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