By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com; and Cassandre Durocher, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com
WASHINGTON, July 29 – In lining up the support of all major Democratic challengers running for Senate this fall, advocates for Net Neutrality said that this complicated issue of telecom politics has now become a partisan issue in November's general election.
“The fact that the Democratcs are promoting Net Neutrality is a pretty significant change in how Net Neutrality will happen,” blogger Matt Stoller said in an interview. Last week Stoller announced that all the major Senate Democratic challengers now support Net Neutrality.
“The debate over Net Neutrality in the Democratic Party is basically over,” said Stoller. “We won this fight.”
He said that Senate Democratic challengers “really see the connection [between] Net Neutrality and activism on the Internet.”
Equally significant in raising the partisanship of the issue, the presumptive presidential nominees of the two major political parties have taken opposite positions on the issue.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., favors Net Neutrality legislation. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opposes it.
Net Neutrality generally refers to legislation or regulation that would bar Bell companies and cable operators from expediting the internet delivery of favored business partners' content – or blocking the content of rivals.
Attention to Net Neutrality has been heightened with reports that the Federal Communications Commission is expected on Friday to penalize Comcast for blocking, or degrading, the internet traffic to users of the peer-to-peer software application BitTorrent.
So strong is the momentum for Net Neutrality that “Kevin Martin is being pressured by Democrats in the House and Senate,” Stoller said, referring to the Republican chairman of the FCC.
In a post last week on OpenLeft, Stoller annouced the reslts of his campaign: all 13 of the Senate Democratic challengers with more than $500,000 cash on hand now support Net Neutrality legislation. That's up from nine of the challengers before Stoller began to contact their offices.
“I went out and asked them to support Net Neutrality, and my readers asked them to support Net Neutrality, and activists asked them to support Net Neutrality,” said Stoller.
“A lot of the people supporting Net Neutrality don't talk to candidates, but I do, because I am a blogger,” said Stoller.
Free Press, one of the major activist group pushing for Net Neutrality – and which operates the savetheinternet.com web site – is non-partisan, and hence unable to engage in partisan politics under its tax-exempt status.
"A guy on his blog just preempted the work of millions of dollars of telecom lobbyists,” said Adam Green of Moveon.org. “OpenLeft deserves a lot of credit for leveraging its voice during this election season and getting these candidates on the record."
Democrats currently in the Senate are more complicated picture. According to a tally produced by Save the Internet (which may be dated), of the senators that caucus with the Democrats, 31 support Net Neutrality, 18 haven't declared their position, and two are “waffling”: Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Web Sites and Stories Referenced in this Article:
- Every Major Senate Democratic Challenger Announces Support for Network Neutrality, OpenLeft blog post, July 24
- Save the Internet Senate Tally on Net Neutrality web site
- Net Neutrality Disagreement Between Two Former FCC Chairmen (BroadbandCensus.com, June 10)