I just got a letter from my senator, Joe Lieberman, dated Oct. 6, that indicates that he’s completely flaking on network neutrality and other key telecom reforms. The letter says that he supports the principle of net neutrality, but underneath the letter’s tricky language he’s saying that he will vote for the telecom industry’s telecom bill (S. 2686), the bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last summer without any net neutrality provision. Moreover, it shows that Lieberman is not willing to wait a year to see if his (former?) party wins a majority in one House of Congress so maybe the country can get a more balanced law.

Commerce Committee chair Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been scrambling to find the 60 votes needed to stop the filibuster promised by Senator Wyden, Senator Kerry and others who believe that the Stevens bill is anti-democratic and an industry give-away. To date, Stevens has lined up about 57 votes, and now with Lieberman and perhaps other swing senators falling Stevens’ way, passage of the Senate telecom bill looks more likely than ever before.

If the Senate passes S. 2686, the worst-case scenario turns ugly. The House has already passed a similar telecom bill so there will be a House-Senate conference committee — with all Republicans, held in secret, in “lame duck” session where voters will have no way to hold outgoing Senators and Representatives responsible for their actions — where the *real* bill will be written. This bill is likely to limit our use of the Internet, to bolster the ability of Verizon, Cablevision or whoever our Internet access provider might be, to choose the content and services we use, and to extend the FCC’s ability to regulate our speech.

Lieberman’s beard — that he supports the principle of net neutrality — is bogus to the max. Once the telecom bill becomes law, there will be no impetus to bring the Snowe-Dorgan Net Neutrality Bill to the Senate floor, to the House, et cetera. The telcos will already have everything they want!

Here are the key passages of Lieberman’s letter:

“Thank you for contacting me with regard to the issue of net
neutrality . . . The principle of net neutrality, which I support,
holds that data from all Internet content providers should be treated
equally, regardless of provider or content . . . Senator Ron Wyden (D-
OR) introduced a bill . . . [but] . . . I favor nonpartisan
legislation such as the Internet Freedom Preservation Act (S. 2917),
which was introduced by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Byron
Dorgan (D-ND) . . . on June 28, 2006, the Commerce Committee approved
the Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act
of 2006 (S. 2686) by a vote of 15-7. I strongly support efforts to
promote broadband deployment. However we must ensure that
congressional efforts to promote deployment by reforming
telecommunications law maintain the openness of the Internet. For
that reason, I support efforts to increase competition in the
telecommunications marketplace in order to achieve lower costs for
consumers. I look forward to the Senate’s consideration of S. 2686
during the 109th Congress in the hope that there will be a
constructive debate about net neutrality.”

These are the last weeks of the 109th Congress. Lieberman, “looks forward to consideration of S. 2686 during the 109th.” And he supports S. 2686 “efforts to increase competition,” i.e., to eliminate local control of cable franchises so Big Telecom — Verizon and at&t are all that’s left! — can enter the video entertainment business. There it is. Get ready to kiss what’s left of Internet freedom goodbye. Thanks Joe.

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5 Comments

  1. GHOTI06 says:

    David — Your skepticism is understandable, but you may also want to focus it on Ned Lamont as well.Back in the summer, Lamont was interviewed at MyDD, and when the question about net neutrality came up, he also said he supported it. But then he also added: “I can understand where if there’s some services that use up a lot more bandwidth than others, there’s a tier or cost that’s associated with that.”This is after his interviewer had already mentioned access tiering, and that’s much more clear than anything Lieberman has said.And don’t forget, Lamont is a cable guy, so he knows what he’s talking about. I would say he happens to be right, but it’s probably not what you expected or wanted to hear.(For what it’s worth, I work with Hands off the Internet.)

  2. isen says:

    GHOTI06 — anonymous, but honest enough to say he’s with Hands Off the Internet — says to watch out for Lamont too. Well, here’s the whole Lamont quote from the MyDD story:”It’s very important that you don’t allow the ISPs and the large operators out there to determine who gets access to what content. When it comes down to net neutrality, this is a pipe and we’re providing equal access to all of the content providers out there. And the last thing you want is large conglomerates picking and choosing who gets access to what.”I can understand where if there’s some services that use up a lot more bandwidth than others, there’s a tier or cost that’s associated with that. But when it comes to content, when it comes to what people can see, everybody has equal access to that, and again you can’t have, again, conglomerates picking and choosing and making those choices on behalf of consumers. That would be wrong, like de facto censorship.”Lamont is right about equal access to content and de facto censorship! He’s partially right about the fact that video really uses the bits; there’s got to be some way for Internet access providers to be compensated when a small minority of high-volume users drive 100% of their network upgrade costs.

  3. bj says:

    There is a very simple way to monetize high volume users.We’ve all been buying “unlimited” internet for years without the sellers ever expecting that we’d use a small fraction of what we’re buying. We have to look at this differently, now that there’s a chance we will use greater bandwidth.I, personally, would have no problem in there being three different internet “packages” with one low bandwidth package suitable to the person who checks email and surfs 10 to 15 hours a week, another medium bandwidth “package” aimed at the person like me who works online but who seldom watches video, and a third “package” that is for high bandwidth users who are most likely either watching video or doing the bittorrent thing.For the record, if the Telecomms start discriminating packets based on origin or content, they could run into a helluva liability problem with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Once they stop acting like a Common Carrier they lose the protection of limited liability.You think your two Connecticut bozos are waffling, you should hear the PA idiots, whose campaign contributions come in great proportion from Comcast . . .

  4. Chuck Peña cpena@fcac.org says:

    RE: Number of Senators Supporter Senate Telecom Bill Dear David,We have been following the Senate Telecommunications Bill (formerly S.2686, currently designated as H.R.5252, since it is being offered as an amendment to the House bill) and have met with the staffs of nine Senators to explain why this bill is not in the country’s best interest. You write in the message regarding Democratic Senator Joe Liberman’s support of the bill (which is extremely disappointing) that Ted Stevens has 57 senators, of the 60 needed, willing to break Senator Ron Wyden’s hold on the bill — and, I presume, Liberman raises the number to 58. Where did you get this number? Thank you,ChuckChuck PeñaExecutive DirectorFairfax Cable Access Corporationcpena@fcac.org

  5. Day says:

    I agree that Joe Lieberman needs to confer with Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) who gets net neutrality.Often the red herring of “paying for the bandwidth” gets sprayed about. It really is no different than interstate commerce. An example:I order something that needs to ship from city A to city B. It could come by UPS or FedX. Both of these shippers do high volume, but assume that FedX pays the extra highway fees to use the fast lane and UPS does not. UPS still can use the highway, but not the fast lane.However, I am actually paying for the shipping costs when I order something. Just like I pay for the Internet bandwidth for my DSL connection. No matter who I choose to get the package from, I have paid for the shipping. UPS or FedX (or Google or YouTube) should have to pony up and pay for shipping again.If that becomes the law, then choice will degrade to the Big-6, much like radio and tv media has reduced freedom of speech by limiting local access and content.Here’s some of what is being discussed in Oregon: http://blog.easystreet.com/category/network-neutrality/Day Tooley