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.