Tea Party and Net Neutrality? – by “Joshua K”

In this blog, Eliza Krigman at Nextgov argues that the Tea Party could actually help advance the cause of network neutrality by supporting Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) proposal, which basically would have restored the pre-Comcast status quo without requiring a reclassification of broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. Though Tea Party activists would like to see no new federal regulation of the Internet, according to Krigman, many of them view the Waxman bill as the lesser of two evils by limiting the FCC’s authority to reclassify broadband  and thus impose more extensive regulations. As conservative blogger Neil Stevens puts it at Redstate, “We need [legislation] to stop this ever-expanding scope that the FCC is claiming for itself.”

Politico released a list of 10 Tea Party candidates to watch, so I decided to check out their websites to learn the Tea Party’s stance on Net Neutrality.

  • Joe Miller-No mention
  • Jesse Kelly-No mention
  • Ken Buck-No mention
  • Dan Maes-No mention
  • Marco Rubio-No mention
  • Rick Scott-No mention
  • Raul Labrador-No mention
  • Rand Paul-No mention
  • Sharron Angle-No mention
  • Mike Lee-No mention

None of Politico’s list of most influential Tea Party candidates have a mention of network neutrality on their website. Seeing that Krigman’s piece references only think-tank analysts, it is hard to see if the actual members of the Tea Party, the voters and the candidates they support, will use their influence to advance network neutrality legislation in Congress. Since network neutrality requires some level of government interference in the marketplace of the Internet, I can’t imagine any serious Tea Party candidate supporting either the FCC’s or Rep. Waxman’s proposal. With Rep. Waxman’s proposal gaining little momentum in the current Congress, we can expect even less work to happen after the election and a likely Republican takeover. Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight has the Republicans winning the House at 73 percent and 18 percent in the Senate. Thus the future of the Internet and network neutrality most likely now lies in the hands of the FCC and the Obama administration.

The biggest fear might be a Republican Congress actively legislating against any new federal regulations to enforce network neutrality. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson, John Ensign, Sam Brownback, David Vitter, Jim DeMint, and John Thune have already introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would block FCC funds from developing or implementing new Internet regulations. Though this attempt may have failed, under a different Senate, Hutchinson’s amendment might get passed. The network neutrality debate is far from settled.

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