Republican strategy is to paint Net neutrality as government 'control' of Internet
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill in the Senate on Thursday that would effectively allow Internet service providers to slow down or block Internet content or applications of their choosing.
The move came the same day as the federal government decided to move forward on an official Net neutrality policy that would prevent ISPs from making those types of decisions.
The FCC's new rules would prevent ISPs, for example, from blocking or slowing bandwidth-hogging Web traffic such as streaming video or other applications that put a strain on their networks or from charging different rates to users.
McCain's bill, the Internet Freedom Act, would block the Federal Communications Commission from making Net neutrality the law of the land. The rule preventing ISPs from slowing down certain types of content would create "onerous federal regulation," McCain argued in a written statement.
According to a report at NetworkWorld, McCain "called the proposed Net neutrality rules a 'government takeover' of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an 'already anemic' job market in the US."
But supporters of Net neutrality argue that the rule is needed to ensure that Internet providers don't censor content, or slow down traffic to Web sites that are in competition with their business allies.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski argued that "reasonable and enforceable rules of the road" were needed "to preserve a free and open Internet."
"The Internet's openness has allowed entrepreneurs and innovators, small and large, to create countless applications and services without having to seek permission from anyone," he said.
But, the FCC chairman said, there have been "some significant situations where broadband providers have degraded the data streams of popular lawful services and blocked consumer access to lawful applications."
Two Republicans on the FCC also voted on Thursday to go ahead with the rule-making process, which will be open for public comment until January 14, but voiced misgivings about the plan.
NET NEUTRALITY A 'MARXIST PLOT'?
As the NetworkWorld article notes, McCain was on the opposite side of the Net neutrality debate from President Barack Obama during last year's presidential campaign. During his White House campaign, President Barack Obama came out strongly in favor of Net neutrality, which is backed by companies such as Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, eBay and consumer advocacy groups, but opposed by telecommunications, wireless and cable companies.
Republicans appear to be shifting against Net neutrality and aligning themselves with the telecoms and cable companies.
This week, media watchdog Media Matters criticized conservative news host Glenn Beck for what it said was Beck's allegation that Net neutrality is a "Marxist plot," and that the point of Net neutrality is to "control content," a perspective that prompted MediaMatters and other observers to question whether Beck understands the principle of Net neutrality.
In his announcement today, McCain appeared to agree with the notion that Net neutrality represents regulation and control, rather than a lack thereof.
His bill "will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation," McCain said, as quoted by Phil Goldstein at Fierce Wireless. "It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy."
-- With Agence France-Presse