This is insidious
Have the House and Senate abdicated responsibility
Have they just been bought off?
President Obama’s Christmas Gift to AT&T
(and Comcast and Verizon)
Dec 21, 2010
By Amy Goodman
  One of President Barack Obama’s signature campaign promises was to protect the freedom of the Internet. He said, in November 2007, “I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose.”
  Jump ahead to December 2010, where Obama is clearly in the back seat, being driven by Internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. With him is his appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, his Harvard Law School classmate and basketball pal who just pushed through a rule on network neutrality that Internet activists consider disastrous.
  Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron told me, “This proposal appears to be riddled with loopholes that would open the door to all kinds of future abuses, allowing companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, the big Internet service providers, to decide which websites are going to work, which aren’t, and which are going to be able to get special treatment.”
  For comedian-turned-senator Al Franken, D-Minn., the new rules on Net neutrality are no joke. He offered this example, writing: “Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a tea party group in your area).”
  AT&T is one of the conglomerates that activists say practically wrote the FCC rules that Genachowski pushed through. We’ve seen this flip-flop before. Weeks before his 2007 net neutrality pledge, then-Sen. Obama took on AT&T, which was exposed for engaging in warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens at the request of the Bush administration. AT&T wanted retroactive immunity from prosecution. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton told Talking Points Memo: “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”
  But by July 2008, a month before the Democratic National Convention, with Obama the presumptive presidential nominee, he not only didn’t filibuster, but voted for a bill that granted telecoms retroactive immunity from prosecution. AT&T had gotten its way, and showed its appreciation quickly. The official tote bag issued to every DNC delegate was emblazoned with a large AT&T logo. AT&T threw an opening-night bash for delegates that was closed to the press, celebrating the Democratic Party for its get-out-of-jail-free card.
  AT&T, Verizon, cable giant Comcast and other corporations have expressed support for the new FCC rule. Genachowski’s Democratic Party allies on the commission, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn (the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn), according to Aaron, “tried to improve these rules, but the chairman refused to budge, apparently because he had already reached an agreement with AT&T and the cable lobbyists about how far these rules were going to go.” Clyburn noted that the rules could allow mobile Internet providers to discriminate, and that poor communities, particularly African-American and Latino, rely on mobile Internet services more than wired connections.
  Aaron laments the power of the telecom and cable industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C.: “In recent years, they’ve deployed 500 lobbyists, basically one for every member of Congress, and that’s just what they report. AT&T is the biggest campaign giver in the history of campaign giving, as long as we have been tracking it. So they have really entrenched themselves. And Comcast, Verizon, the other big companies, are not far behind."

Money talks everybody else squawks (editors' comment)

  Aaron added: “When AT&T wants to get together all of their lobbyists, there’s no room big enough. They had to rent out a movie theater. People from the public interest who are fighting for the free and open Internet here in D.C. can still share a cab."

  Campaign money is now more than ever the lifeblood of U.S. politicians, and you can be sure that Obama and his advisers are looking to the 2012 election, which will likely be the costliest in U.S. history. Vigorous and innovative use of the Internet and mobile technologies is credited with helping Obama secure his victory in 2008. As the open Internet becomes increasingly stifled in the U.S., and the corporations that control the Internet become more powerful, we may not see such democratic participation for much longer.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
© 2010 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
The Seattle Times
The newspaper’s view
December 24, 2010
  FCC rule-making invites a skeptical review
A flurry of Federal Communications Commission activity invites a skeptical review by Congress, especially after the official hints of a coming endorsement of a grievous consolidation of media giants.
A FLURRY of dubious activity at the Federal Communications Commission is an open invitation for the next Congress to declare a timeout to slow down the agency and let the public catch up.
  A report Thursday by The Washington Post of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's draft approval of the proposed merger of cable giant Comcast with NBC Universal follows Tuesday's 3-2 commission vote endorsing a jigsaw puzzle of net-neutrality regulations.
  Rules approved to ensure content providers and consumers have equal access to the Internet were still being parsed and debated, as the extraordinary consolidation of corporate power received a regulator's blessing.
  Pairing the country's biggest Internet and cable service with a huge broadcast, television and movie interest casts a long shadow on free and open access to competitors and typical Internet users. At least the Justice Department is still looking at the implications of this concentration of power and self-interest in the hands of an Internet gatekeeper.
  Advocates of a free and open Internet found no comfort in a muddle of rules subject to more interpretations than Tarot cards. The rules do not preclude charging priority rates for faster service. They bump up against nondiscrimination rules, but are not forbidden. So it begins.
  Republicans and Democrats in Congress pledge action from different directions. GOP lawmakers are angry the FCC is doing anything that might tamper with corporate plans and business models. They want the government to keep its hands off.
  Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, noted the failure to protect against paid prioritization, but he said the greatest weakness in the FCC rules was not looking out for the future of wireless Internet.
  In the same spirit, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said she was disappointed the FCC rules "don't do enough to make sure the Internet remains a source of American innovation and economic growth." Concerned the net-neutrality rules are not strong enough, she plans to introduce legislation in 2011.
  Disturbing issues of media consolidation and weak consumer protection need a tough, skeptical review by Congress.