Dover Bitch

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chairman to nowhere

It's important, while considering Net Neutrality, to consider who is fighting against it in the Senate: Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens.

The Commerce Committee is set to vote on the latest Net Neutrality bill on Thursday. We cannot sit back and wait for the results. Keep calling your senators and getting the message out to the public.

Although he "threatened" to quit the Senate last December, Stevens is still handing out taxpayer money and resources to his corporate buddies.

First, a quick review of just the last year of Stevens' highlights:

He introduced and passed a $3 billion subsidy for digital TV tuner manufacturers. He spearheaded the delay in getting our first responders the communications frequencies they need until 2009. He threatened to deny our troops funding by inserting his repeat-failure ANWR drilling provision into the defense bill -- a move called "disgusting" by his colleagues -- after having previously claimed that it had no place in such a bill. He swindled $223 million from the American people for a "bridge to nowhere."

Oh yeah, and he was one of nine in the Senate who voted for torture.

Now he's messing with the Internet. Among the latest news is this gem:

In a change favorable to cable, Stevens stripped from the bill language that would have forced Comcast Corp. to sell its Sports Net Philadelphia to DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. Also gone are provisions allowing competitors to file FCC complaints to gain access to regional sports networks not owned by cable operator but to which a cable operator has exclusive rights.

Bummer for Stevens. His "Sports Freedom Act of 2006" is a no-go. But why did he want to interfere with teams' and leagues' contracts with cable companies anyway? After all, in an article about Net Neutrality, the Washington Post dutifully reported:

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is open to consumer protections but is loath to interfere with commercial deals among phone and cable companies and the content providers, a committee staffer said.

You just cannot take this man at his word. Ever.

So now he's floating a new "compromise" for Net Neutrality: An Internet Bill of Rights, which is actually a toothless smokescreen, intended to appear as if there's any real protections for Net discrimination. If you can prove your ISP is messing with the services you use, you can complain to the FCC. Eventually, they may levy a fine up to $10,000.

Fortunately for us, ranking Democrat Daniel Inouye isn't fooled.

"The new draft's provisions on net neutrality utterly fail to protect consumers and preserve an open Internet," Inouye said in a statement.

"Under the current language, network operators will have the ability to dictate what the Internet of the future will look like, what content it will include and how it will operate.

The question is whether the general public will be fooled. Pick up a phone and call your senators. Call your local radio stations. The clock is ticking.

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