Monday, January 19, 2009

Democrats sneak Net neutrality rules into 'stimulus' bill

Excerpted from Cnet News:
The House Democrats' $825 billion legislation released on Thursday was supposedly intended to "stimulate" the economy. Backers claimed that speedy approval was vital because the nation is in "a crisis not seen since the Great Depression" and "the economy is shutting down."

That's the rhetoric. But in reality, Democrats are using the 258-page legislation to sneak Net neutrality rules in through the back door.

The so-called stimulus package hands out billions of dollars in grants for broadband and wireless development, primarily in what are called "unserved" and "underserved" areas. The U.S. Department of Commerce is charged with writing checks-with-many-zeros-on-them to eligible recipients, including telecommunications companies, local and state governments, and even construction companies and other businesses that might be interested.

The catch is that the federal largesse comes with Net neutrality strings attached. The Commerce Department must ensure that the recipients "adhere to" the Federal Communications Commission's 2005 broadband policy statement (PDF)--which the FCC said at the time was advisory and "not enforceable," and has become the subject of a lawsuit before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

One interpretation of the "adhere to" requirement is that a company like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast that takes "stimulus" dollars to deploy broadband in, say, Nebraska must abide by these rules nationwide. (It's rather like the state of Nebraska demanding that a broadband provider filter out porn nationwide in exchange for a lucrative government contract.)

In addition, recipients must operate broadband and high-speed wireless networks on an "open access basis." The FCC, soon to be under Democratic control, is charged with deciding what that means. Congress didn't see fit to include a definition.

Now aside from the obvious libertarian assclownery of Declan McCullagh, this article is good news for those who believe in freedom of information. The only reason the progressive movement has even gained momentum is because of the universal access of the Internets. Should there be a two tiered system like the telecommunication companies want, mainstream (read corporate thought)would have faster download times than say a site like mine. As for Declan McCullagh's wanking about the stimulus package reshaping the infrastructure of the telecoms, well they don't have to take the money do they?

Free market unrestricted capitalism is dangerous and dead. Get over it, y'all had your chance and the end result was 2008.

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