Stimulus Bill Attempts to Impose Once-Moribund 'Net Neutrality': CNet

If you haven't figured it out yet, the fact that lawmakers in Washington who voted for the mislabeled "stimulus" bill championed by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid did so without reading it, let alone understanding it, means that in the coming weeks (or months?) we'll be learning about all manner of items in the legislation that "nobody" knew about. But that didn't stop House and Senate majorities from passing the legislation. My educated guess is that you won't hear much about these buried provisions from Old Media, because they're largely designed as stealth advances of longtime liberal agenda items.

Remember "net neutrality"? It's back, after probably a year or so of neglect.

Declan McCullagh at CNet explains that whoever wrote the legislation (will we ever know?) is attempting to force anyone who receives government money for broadband expansion to comply with something that isn't law, or even a regulation (links were in original):

Democrats sneak Net neutrality rules into 'stimulus' bill

..... 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.

..... 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.

The Bush administration has taken a dim view of Internet regulations in the form of Net neutrality rules, warning last year that they could "inefficiently skew investment, delay innovation, and diminish consumer welfare, and there is reason to believe that the kinds of broad marketplace restrictions proposed in the name of 'neutrality' would do just that, with respect to the Internet." A report from the Federal Trade Commission reached the same conclusion in 2007.

In addition, a recent study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the absence of Net neutrality laws or similar federally mandated regulations has spurred telecommunications companies to invest heavily in infrastructure, and changing the rules "would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy, investment, and innovation."

Now, perhaps extensive Net neutrality regulations are wise. But enough people seem to have honest, deep-seated reservations about them to justify a sincere discussion of costs and benefits--rather than having the requirements stealthily injected into what supposed to be an emergency save-the-economy bill scheduled for a floor vote within a week or so.

Well, Declan, welcome to Obamaworld. Why have a real debate about an important issue when you can "settle" it by burying what you want in a law that no one read?

Now the debate will change from supporters of Net Neutrality having to justify imposing it to those same supporters shrieking that their opponents want to "roll back gains," or some other similar nonsense. The press will all too willingly oblige in assisting them in presenting those arguments.

Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter must be so proud. (/sarcasm)

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.