Barack Obama told us there would be no compromise on Net neutrality. We heard him say it back in 2007, when he first was running for president.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
To seize this moment we have to ensure free and full exchange of information and that starts with an open Internet. I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose. The InterNet is perhaps the most open network in history and we have to keep it that way.
He said it so many times that defenders of Net neutrality believed him. They believed he would keep his word, would see to it that when private interests set upon the Internet like sharks to blood in the water, its fate would be in the hands of honest brokers who would listen politely to the pleas of the greedy, and then show them the door.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be the infamous revolving door. Last May, President Obama named Tom Wheeler to be FCC chairman. Mr. Wheeler had been one of Obama’s top bundlers of campaign cash, both in 2008 and again in 2012, when he raised at least half a million dollars for the President’s re-election. Like his proposed rules for the Web, that put him at the front of the line.
What’s more, Wheeler had been top gun for both the cable and wireless industries. And however we might try to imagine that he could quickly abandon old habits of service to his employers, that’s simply not how Washington works. Business and government are so intertwined there that public officials and corporate retainers are interchangeable parts of what Chief Justice John Roberts might call the "gratitude machine." Round and round they go, and where they stop. Actually they never stop. They just flash their EZ pass as they keep shuttling through that revolving door.
Consider, Daniel Alvarez was a long-time member of a law firm that has advised Comcast. He once wrote to the FCC on behalf of Comcast arguing against Net neutrality rules. He’s been hired by Tom Wheeler.
Philip Verveer also worked for Comcast and the wireless and cable trade associations. He’s now Tom Wheeler’s senior counselor. Attorney Brendan Carr worked for Verizon and the telecom industry’s trade association, which lobbied against Net neutrality. Now Brendan Carr is an adviser to FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, who used to be a top lawyer for Verizon.
To be fair, Tom Wheeler has brought media reformers into the FCC, too, and has been telling us that we don’t understand. We’re the victims of misinformation about these proposed new rules. That he is still for Net neutrality. Possibly, but the public’s no chump and as you can see from just those few examples I’ve recounted for you from the reporting of intrepid journalist Lee Fang, these new rules are not the product of immaculate conception.
So this public comment period is crucial. You have a chance to tell both Obama and Wheeler what you think, so that the will of the people and not the power of money and predatory interests, is heard.
At our website, BillMoyers.com, we'll show you how to get in touch with the FCC and we’ll connect you to the public interest organizations and media reform groups that can help you get your voices heard.
That’s at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.