Does Congress A-Fear the Public’s Wrath over the Internets?

After the House Commerce Committee pushed its Telecom bill out the door last week without network neutrality provisions, this week the House Republican leadership has seen fit to put the brakes on the Telco-Love Express, pulling the bill from the House floor yesterday.

The Judiciary Committee wants to have a whack at the bill, which opens up the cable TV gates for the big telephone companies and rolls out an enormous welcome mat in the form of a national franchise. Not coincidentally, the chair of Judiciary, James Sensenbrenner has joined ranking Democrat John Conyers to sponsor their own network neutrality legislation.

The National Journal proffers that the increasing public awareness of the issue is starting to have an effect:

Congressional and industry sources said Republican leaders are worried that voting against a network neutrality amendment — designed to keep dominant Bell and cable companies from charging competitors more to transmit high-speed Internet content — could be a political liability.

And, as the SaveTheInternet blog points out, today the New York Times editorialized in favor of network neutrality.

I’m glad to see the network neutrality movement picking up steam — it is the most important telecomm and communications issue facing the US today. Indeed, the very neutrality of today’s internet is aiding this cause, because the net is exactly where so much organizing and networking is taking place.

I keep reflecting back to 1996, when the last Telecomm Act was passed. I wonder if the internet had been as pervasive then, would the massive loosening of radio ownership rules have occurred? Even pretty publicly-minded Congresspeople are happy to follow the whims of lobbiests when they don’t understand the outcome or don’t think their constituents are all that concerned about the issue. But would they have voted differently if their constituents were better educated about the impending Clear Channelization of the airwaves?

I don’t doubt for a moment that the Times would not be editorializing on such an ostensibly arcane issue as network neutrality were it not for the growing internet campaign and reluctant pressure from the tech sector.

And, for good measure, let me just note that some of us internets bloggers have been sounding the warning bell since last year.

Also, I dedicated last Friday’s radioshow to the issue, featuring some smart words from the likes of Vint Cerf, Gigi Sohn, Mark Cooper and the strange bedfellow himself, Craig Fields of the Gun Owners of America, as recorded during the SaveTheInternet conference call on April 24.

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