Liberty on Tap since 1984
His passionate advocacy of net neutrality has made Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) a tremendous boon to opponents of the Federal Communications Commission’s attempts to regulate the Internet. Franken’s lightning rod persona garners perhaps more media and public attention than many of his fellow senators, but it also serves to shine a bit more light on the issue for both sides of the argument to analyze. The quick syllogism to apply is “if Franken supports it than it must be bad; if he’s against it than it must be good.”
While this may ring a bit similar to your writer singing the Groucho Marx lyrics, “Whatever it is/ I’m against it,” on this specific topic it’s important to note that Franken is indeed on the wrong side of the issue. Among those recently taking up the mantle to oppose net neutrality is a coalition of 35 tea party groups who sent a letter last week to the FCC, urging it to abandon its attempts to reclassify the Internet as a communications entity and/or impose net neutrality rules.
Franken, you see, is rankled by the current state of affairs regarding the Internet, whereby ISPs may (but seldom do) throttle bandwidth hogs to enable regular customers the Internet access they paid for as well. Shortly after taking office nearly a year ago, he told a Georgetown University audience: “As far as I'm concerned, free speech limited or free speech delayed are the same thing as free speech denied.” At the Netroots Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks back, he stated “net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time,” and pondered how long before a Republican Web site loaded more quickly than a Democrat Web site if net neutrality rules aren’t imposed. How’s that for placing ideology ahead of practical considerations?
Let’s put it in terms easily understood. Wall Street Journal columnist Gordon Crovitz quotes Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett’s example: “A woman gets a pacemaker that ‘will wirelessly contact the hospital if she suffers from cardiac arrhythmia. Are you telling me that it would be illegal to prioritize that traffic over a video of a squirrel on water skis?’”
So it’s gratifying to note Franken’s net neutrality cheerleading has helped generate a backlash among those who didn’t even know what net neutrality was a year ago. And the ability of tea partiers to motivate the troops and educate themselves on a myriad of subjects quickly is impressive.
I’m a huge fan of the tea party movement. They’re a widely read, highly educated group of individuals from my experience. If they sometimes lack media savvy and consistent messaging, they make up for it in their passionate articulation for smaller government and lower taxes. I welcome their joining the net neutrality fray. We should thank them ecstatically for their support.
As well we should thank Sen. Franken for helping to bring the net neutrality issue to the tea partiers’ attention.