Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and thirty other Republicans have just reintroduced legislation meant to kill internet freedom and please the telecommunication giants who have bankrolled many of their campaigns. Blackburn shamelessly claims that the bill, H.R. 1212 the Internet Freedom Act , is intended to stop President Obama’s make-believe internet takeover and protect Americans:
“Last week’s vote by the FCC to regulate the Internet like a 1930s era public utility is further proof that the Obama Administration will stop at nothing in their efforts to control the Internet,” Blackburn said. “There is nothing ‘free and open’ about this heavy-handed approach. These overreaching rules will stifle innovation, restrict freedoms, and lead to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes for American consumers. Once the federal government establishes a foothold into managing how Internet service providers run their networks they will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second, third, or not at all. My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations.” [Source]
Blackburn and her fellow Republicans do not care about “freedom” nor “jobs,” because this bill has absolutely nothing to do with those lofty idea. She has been the biggest opponent of Obama’s attempt to keep the internet free and open since Net Neutrality was introduced in 2010, for one simple reason: money.
Of the thirty-one co-sponsors of the bill, only two of them have not had their pockets stuffed with legal bribes from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the lobbying group which represents AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner. The other twenty-nine co-sponsors received over $800,000 in 2014 alone.
Apparently, the internet providers were extremely pleased with Blackburn, because her campaign and political action committee received the most money: $87,000. That included a $25,000 maximum donation from AT&T.
Tim Karr, the senior director of strategy at Free Press, a nonprofit group that advocates for consumer rights, has made it clear who this bill is really meant to protect; and it certainly isn’t the average American as Blackburn and her cohorts claim:
“This is a Frankenstein bill that’s had previous lives and has been shuttled back into the hands of Marsha Blackburn. It’s called the ‘Internet Freedom Act,’ but it’s cynically designed to take freedoms out of the hands of Internet users and put them in the hands of the companies that bankroll people like Marsha Blackburn’s political campaigns.” [Source]
Karr says that, in the nearly two decades that the telecoms have been fighting the battle against internet freedom, they have spent nearly a billion dollars lobbying Republicans. He also says that Blackburn is among the highest paid politicians by these corporations. In other words, these companies own the very Republicans who have put this bill forth and are fighting to make sure that the companies get a return on their investment.
This bill isn’t meant to “protect” Americans, but the interests of the billionaires and mega-corporations bankrolling Republicans?
President Obama and Democrats have been fighting all along to ensure that the people of this country have unfettered access to the internet. They have been fighting for our freedoms and Republicans have been doing what they have always done: fight for the corporations who are stuffing their pockets.
The Republican party does not represent the American people, they never have. They are the party of big business. They are the party who claims that they are working for the average Joe, but turn around and screw him over behind his back. That’s exactly what this bill would do; give telecommunication giants control of the internet while forcing all of us would to pay astronomical fees to access content.
Does that sound like “internet freedom” to you? I didn’t think so.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.