We all celebrate the small "d" democratic revolution that the Internet has enabled, and everyone here knows that the revolution was built on an open Internet. As Joan said in that post, "The Daily Kos community is only possible because of net neutrality. It created the free and open Internet, which allowed netroots activism to flourish."
And given the fight we've had the last years, you also know that the openness of the platform is at risk today - but it'll be in infinitely greater danger if any of us sit back and let Republicans take over the House in November.
Because of your strong work - the coalition of activists and scholars that have been working hard on this issue for years - the bright light of constant pressure has kept the Internet from becoming a place where corporations write their own rules and favor their friends over the rest of us. But, earlier this year, the FCC lost a court case over its authority over broadband services, a critical loss that raised questions about its ability to protect network neutrality. In fact, it cast doubt on its role in implementing parts of the entire National Broadband Plan, creating consumer and legal uncertainty in this vital area.
Since then, it’s been a battle. Telephone and cable companies fought to keep the FCC out of the game and stall any action in Congress, leaving them able to do whatever they want with the Internet. But we pushed back. The FCC issued a public inquiry – the first step to action – presenting options for revisiting what they can do under current law to try to reassert some oversight. And a number of us in Congress have been talking and thinking seriously about how to get a new law passed that brings our telecommunications laws in this area into the 21st century. And we made progress, with even those telephone and cable companies agreeing to a compromise before ideologically rigid GOP leaders stepped in.
Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the House showed what we can expect to happen if they get back in control of Congress. They refused to engage in the good-faith compromise effort Chairman Waxman was leading to protect network neutrality in law. And don't forget - this was a compromise effort! Henry was trying to enact a more than reasonable middle ground that would have done the bare minimum necessary for the continued growth of the free and open Internet. But in their partisan power play, Republican House leaders are sending a loud message to all of us about what will happen to the Internet if we do not turn out and vote for Democrats in November: telecommunications policy as a tool for ideological extremism.
I don’t need to tell you that the risks of concentrated power are particularly dangerous in information markets. Information is vital to a citizen in a democracy, so the need to preserve and secure the freedom to access and use those networks is fundamental. And, bottom-line, the FCC was created to provide for fair access to communications. That’s their job - to be the consumer's voice. So this idea that broadband service – either through wires or wireless – won’t or shouldn’t be something they can have a voice on is nonsense. Frankly, it's a non-sequitur that ought to be a nonstarter.
One of the big things some folks are saying is that the FCC shouldn’t act before Congress acts. But look, while it’s still a battle we’re fighting to write a good law, we can’t wait for a new law; the Internet is changing so rapidly, we have to bring clarity to what’s going on, and the FCC can do that right now. (And for the irony department, it's a little like the battle they waged against climate legislation - they say Congress not the regulators should act - then they stop Congress from acting. Feel familiar?)
My bottom-line? Congress and the FCC through law and regulation should be able to ensure that the big companies that own the networks don’t determine who wins and loses on the Internet. There’s no room for special deals that tilt the playing field unfairly. We need to make sure that the networks are fair, that billing and service information is clear, and we must ensure that broadband service providers can use the Universal Service Fund to make it accessible everywhere. Without a legislative compromise, all of that is impossible short of reclassification of broadband service, which now remains the last best option on the table.
But keep this in mind - yesterday, we got a good indication on what’s in the game plan of the Republicans. They won’t agree to even the minimum conversation necessary to move this forward, and we can expect an all-out assault on the free and open Internet if they get back in control. Right now, I know Henry Waxman remains open to a good faith dialogue, as do I. But we won’t stand idly by while consumers and innovators go without the assurance that they’ll be able to use the Internet without asking corporate permission first.
So, please get energized - if you care about this issue - and I've read a hell of a lot here that makes me know you do - then do something in the next 34 days to make sure candidates who will stand up for you get elected. There should be no illusions - these Republicans are tipping their pitches - they’ve made their intentions clear. Elections have consequences, and I’m determined to make sure that they are good ones -- but ultimately, this is in your hands November 2nd. And remember this critical fact: it's a lot harder and a lot less fun to spend years undoing damage - just look at what we've had to do to clean up their mess - so let's get this election right.
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