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Why Dorgan-Snowe is all about politics and not real Internet Policy

There are several telling indications that net neutrality remains a political and partisan issue and is not a serious legislative/policy issue or industry problem.


First, the only change in the Senate net neutrality bill just introduced, was to change its name from Snowe-Dorgan to Dorgan-Snowe to reflect the new Democratic changeover of Congress. Other than that, the actual bill language is identical to last year’s bill -- according to Senator Dorgan’s spokesperson and my review of the two bills.

Second, isn’t it very telling that the sponsors have learned nothing, let me repeat nothing, since they introduced their bill eight months ago that might have made their bill better or attracted more consensus?

  • In eight months of vigorous national debate in Washington and in the blogosphere, was there no input, comments or ideas from citizens, consumer groups, technical experts, supporters/opponents, bloggers, Senators, associations, academics, or companies that was worthy of acknowledgment, inclusion, modification or amendment in the new version of this bill?
    • Does anyone else find it remarkable that in the world’s greatest deliberative body, the first draft of Snowe-Dorgan proved to be perfect in every way and in no need of even one word change?
  • Re-introducing the exact same bill that died in a partisan deadlock just last summer, without a single word change signals a lot.
    • It signals there is little interest in achieving consensus, since none of the many legitimate criticisms of the original bill have been even acknowleged, let alone partially addressed.
      • For example, if net neutrality is supposedly the Internet’s First Amendment, why is there no mention whatsoever of the First Amendment or free speech anywhere in this reintroduced bill?
    • It shows there is little interest in compromise, or working across the aisle or working with industry to find middle ground.
    • It is also clear that there is little interest in actually legislating, doing the hard work to consult, draft, re-draft, compromise, to get the idea/concept into law.    
  • The most telling fact that this debate will be all about politics in the Senate and not Internet policy, is that it is the beginning of the Presidential election cycle and that three leading Democratic Presidential aspirants are co-sponsors of Dorgan-Snowe: Senators Clinton, Kerry and Obama.
    • If the co-sponsors were really interested in making policy and not playing politics, they would have waited and tried to negotiate introduction of a truly bipartisan bill.
    • Doing it this way makes it obvious we are in for a repeat of last year – a partisan fight and gridlock.  
    • Just like the Democratic Caucus in the Senate came together in political unity to kill the franchise reform bill last year, it doesn’t look like it will be hard for there to be solid 41 Republicans in the Republican Caucus to oppose this political, uncompromising, and hyper-regulatory approach to net neutrality in Dorgan-Snowe.

Bottom-line: Senate Democrat tactics on net neutrality have predestined that net neutrality will be about politics and not policy this Congress.