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January 15, 2014 1:16 PM But Maybe the Sky Is Falling After All

By Ed Kilgore

I’m afraid my measured, anything-can-happen take on the DC Court of Appeals’ net neutrality decision yesterday may under-represent a contrary point of view. Here it is as articulated by the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik:

President Obama’s FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, moved to shore up the agency’s regulatory defense of net neutrality in 2010. But faced with the implacable opposition of the cable and telecommunications industry, he stopped short of reclassifying cable modems as telecommunications services. The result was the tatterdemalion policy that the court killed today. It was so ineptly crafted that almost no one in the telecom bar seemed to think it would survive; the only question was how dead would it be? The answer, spelled out in the ruling, is: totally.
The court did leave it up to the FCC or Congress to refashion a net neutrality regime. The new FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has made noises favoring net neutrality, but he also sounds like someone who’s not so committed to the principle.
In an important speech in December and a long essay released at the same time, he’s seemed to play on both sides. But that won’t work. The only way to defend net neutrality, which prioritizes the interests of the customer and user over the provider, is to do so uncompromisingly. Net neutrality can’t be made subject to the “marketplace,” as Wheeler suggests, because the cable and telephone firms control that marketplace and their interests will prevail. Congress? Don’t make me laugh—it’s owned by the industry even more than the FCC.
The only course is for public pressure to overcome industry pressure. That’s a tough road, but there’s no alternative. Do you want your Internet to look like your cable TV service, where you have no control over what comes into your house or what you pay for it? Then stay silent. If not, start writing letters and emails to your elected representatives and the FCC now. It’s the only hope to save the free, open Internet.

A post by groupw at Daily Kos raises an even louder alarm:

This is about as important a fight as it gets. With TV Radio and newspapers wholly owned and serving big business the internet is the only hope to maintain lines of communication and allow the people to stay organized. Without that there is little hope of turning this tide of economic inequality.
Demographics will not matter, and this wave of progressive-ism will go out with little more then a whimper.

I don’t personally hear the jackboots marching down my street just yet, but Lord knows I’m vulnerable to a manipulated online marketplace of words where money talks most.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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