Net neutrality: John McCain says no, Glenn Beck sees a Marxist plot

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, introduced a bill late Thursday that would short-circuit the FCC's ability to enforce its proposed open Internet rules. In a press release, McCain said the new rules will "stifle innovation, in turn slowing our economic turnaround and further depressing an already anemic job market." McCain is particularly opposed to extending net neutrality to the wireless space, and his bill, the Internet Freedom Act of 2009, comes as opponents of net neutrality launched a furious attack on the FCC and the Obama administration.

Glenn Beck, the popular TV and radio host with 3 million nightly viewers, has blasted net neutrality as a "Marxist" plot by the Obama administration to take over the Internet.
For the last several nights leading up to Thursday's FCC vote moving forward with the open Internet rule-making process, Beck has been warning his viewers about net neutrality, the idea that broadband providers should not favor their own content over competing programming.

"So we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality -- are believers in net neutrality" to "control content," the outspoken Beck said Tuesday night.

Art Brodsky, the communications director at pro-net neutrality group Public Knowledge, said Beck is actually arguing against his own interests.

"Mr. Beck fails to understand the fundamentals of how the Internet works. He should be in favor of Net Neutrality, because it guarantees streaming of his program will not be able to be placed behind, say, Keith Olbermann's Countdown. That could happen if NBC's owner decided to pay protection money for prioritized data transmission."

Beck is not the only opponent of the rules pushing back. Hours after the Federal Communication Commission voted Thursday to begin the rule-making process aimed at ensuring net neutrality, the principle that broadband providers should treat Web content fairly, a Republican lawmaker blasted the proposal by likening it to the dreaded "fairness doctrine."

Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, spoke out against the new rules at an event put on by the Safe Internet Alliance, The Hill newspaper reported. As a representative of Nashville, Blackburn said she spoke for the creative community when she argued that the federal government should stay out of how creators want to get content to consumers via the Internet, according to the paper. "Net neutrality, as I see it, is the fairness doctrine for the Internet," Blackburn said.

Blackburn said that creators "fully understand what the fairness doctrine would be when it applies to TV or radio. What they do not want is the federal government policing how they deploy their content over the Internet and they want the ISPs to manage their networks and deploy the content however they have agreed on with ISP. They do not want a czar of the Internet to determine when they can deploy their creativity over the Internet."

The Fairness Doctrine was a long-ago-abandoned F.C.C. rule which required radio broadcasters to give equal time to opposing viewpoints. Some Congressional Democrats have made no secret of their desire to resurrect the doctrine, which was effectively ended by the Reagan Administration. Republicans reviled the rule -- and certainly benefited from its repeal -- and frequently use it to try to convince people to oppose net neutrality.

It was a day of running rhetorical clashes. After Blackburn's remarks, Brodsky said she was dead wrong.

"Net Neutrality is the opposite of the fairness doctrine," Brodsky. "While that now-repealed rule required some balance in views, Net Neutrality takes away the ability of any entity, government or company, to control speech."

This is not the first time that net neutrality opponents have raised the specter of the fairness doctrine. Last year, Robert McDowell, a Republican member of the F.C.C., warned that net neutrality rules might somehow force bloggers "to give equal time or equal space on their website to opposing views rather than letting the marketplace of ideas" determine their content.

Blackburn's comments were just the latest in what Brodsky termed "a brutal assault on the FCC" over the issue in recent weeks. Blackburn also said that Congress needs to ensure that groups receiving stimulus money for broadband expansion deploy "reasonable and effective network management tools" so they can be helpful in tracking down illegal activity.

McCain, who introduced the bill to undermine the new rules, has received some $894,379 in contributions from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other broadband interests over his career, many of those dollars directed to his 2008 presidential campaign, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Follow Sam Gustin, a reporter for DailyFinance, on Twitter here. Follow DailyFinance's tech coverage here.
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