Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Posting A Guide to the Network Neutrality Discussions at the FCC

Marvin Ammori

Politicians always claim their policies will help the average American, but you can’t always believe them. They face political pressures, walking a fine line between pleasing the powerful and serving average voters. A common tactic in walking this line is serving the powerful while trying to fool the public.

This is common because the powerful--say, in banking, oil, tobacco, insurance, military, media, cable, and telecom--have well-trained lawyers and lobbyists who monitor the details of laws, and who can't easily be fooled by public relations. But few of us are expert enough, or even have the time, to review the details of the many laws affecting our lives. Fewer of us have lawyers on payroll protecting our interest in Congress and federal agencies. So powerful lobbyists can strategically hide their giveaways in obscure legislative details using "magic words" called terms of art that have specialized legal meaning understood by only few experts but not understood by the public (or even most Congressmen). And then politicians can sell a law to the public as a great victory while glossing over the details.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission is in meetings with large corporations to discuss rules for an open Internet. While all of us rely on an open, free Internet in our daily lives, to communicate with loved ones, to learn the news, to debate politics, to organize for or against a cause, and even just to book travel, buy books, and check our finances, few of us understand the legal rules ensuring (or not ensuring) the Internet’s openness.

As a result, since I am a scholar on this issue who spent years in DC advocating for net neutrality, I post a detailed guide to the details debated in the current net neutrality discussion. With this guide, you will not need a well-heeled lobbyist to let you know if the FCC Chairman’s public relations potential campaign is true. You will know for yourself if the Chairman has preserved an open Internet or buckled to political pressure from the largest corporations when he, like any politician, claims his policies will help the average American.

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