A neutral victory

Good news on the Net Neutrality front.  Stoller reports:

I’m hearing from friends that the FCC just voted 3-2 to punish Comcast for illegally blocking internet traffic to some customers who used file-sharing software.  This was a bipartisan decision, with Republican Kevin Martin standing up to vicious party and media pressure to side with Democrats Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.  Though Comcast will litigate the order and the order carries no fine, this is a precedent setting move.  A few years ago, no one thought that the FCC would move to enforce its ‘principles’ of an open internet, figuring they were simply fig-leafs to the public interest community.  With the tremendous public pressure on the issue and the egregious behavior by Comcast (and Verizon censoring NARAL’s text messages and AT&T censoring Pearl Jam), the logic became too compelling to ignore.

In a series of important moves, Barack Obama came out strongly for net neutrality, every Democratic Senate challenger came out for net neutrality, and once the Democrats solidified, a few others like Republican Chip Pickering and Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin chose to protect the internet from aggressive censorship-prone corporations like Comcast.  The McCain campaign, though it’s against net neutrality, has been reduced to saying that the issue is not a ‘President of the United States’ issue and that it’s ‘inside baseball’ not worth public discussion.  The backlash has been so aggressive that even McCain, who is owned by telecom and cable interests wholesale, doesn’t want to fight here.

There’s another lesson here, and that’s the real meaning of bipartisanship.  We started this fight in 2006 with a bipartisan consensus against us, and gradually we’ve been able to flip the Democratic Party on our issue.  And now we’re beginning to flip Republicans.  There was a lot of whining that net neutrality was becoming a ‘partisan issue’, but what we’re learning is that winning a fight involves first pushing an issue through one party, making it partisan, and then making it bipartisan though the other party.  The intellectual coherence of the argument, not whether you have a fig leaf Republican or a conservative Democrat on your side, is the politically powerful tool.


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