When Did Network Neutrality Become A Partisan Issue?

from the this-is-unfortunate dept

One of the interesting things about the debates that we have here about legal issues concerning innovation is that they tend not to be partisan. It's never been easy to line up a specific intellectual property agenda with one party or another -- which tends to mean that any debate on the subject at least focuses a bit more on the issues, rather than stereotypes of Democrats or Republicans. However, it looks like the network neutrality debate is suddenly becoming partisan -- which is a worrisome trend. Lots of folks have covered the fact that an amendment today to include network neutrality language in a telecom reform bill was voted down. However, it's telling that everyone is now covering it as a partisan issue, whether the headline is "GOP Gets It Way on Net Neutrality" or "Democrats lose House vote on Net neutrality". This is an important issue to discuss, without there needing to be partisan bickering about it. Network neutrality is quite a complex topic, and unfortunately, it seems like both sides of the debate are simplifying it down to slogans which risk confusing, rather than enlightening, people. The efforts to write network neutrality into the law are a very tricky subject, with the obvious fear being that any regulations will inadvertently excessively penalize future developments. On the other side of the coin, those preaching a complete "hands off" position seem to ignore the fact that it's way too late for that. The only reasons the telcos are in the position to violate network neutrality are because they've pretty much been granted subsidies and monopoly rights of way -- and part of that bargain was that to increase competition, there needed to be open and fair access. To suddenly claim that we need a hands off approach is ignoring the fact that there's never been a hands off approach and the companies involved were granted special rights. Balancing these two sides is an important issue -- and simply lining it up as a Democratic vs. Republican issue is only likely to cloud it with pointless bickering and misleading statements on both sides.
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  1. identicon
    J, 26 Apr 2006 @ 9:06pm

    since it became a partisan issue

    The media doesn't "make" anything a partisan issue - it became a partisan issue when every Democrat except the members of the CBC vote for a substantial network neutrality proposal and every Republican but one voted with the telephone companies. After the drug companies the telecoms are the biggest movers of money in Washington. To both sides. In this case, one side has chosen to stand up to them, and the other has chosen to stick with them (and consequently increase their share of that very large pie) You don't get party line voting like this unless the leadership has made a choice and whipped the vote on down the line.

    All the "free market" techies and libertarians here that give the Republicans a pass on this issue are the ones to blame when the tiered/tolled internet kicks in - they are the ones who are undermining the fight to keep the internet open and unblocked.

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