Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell increasingly sounds like a man stranded on a desert island, willing to say anything to get a ride back to shore.
Yesterday, Commissioner McDowell stooped to a new low in a talk with bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He was invited to discuss the FCC's recent decision to punish Comcast for blocking users from sharing legal content on the Internet.
Comcast was caught red-handed secretly discriminating against innovative technologies used for high-definition online TV, using the same censorship technology the Chinese government uses to block free speech. This discriminatory behavior represents a blatant and outrageous violation of free speech.
Based on this clear-cut case against Comcast, a bipartisan majority of the FCC issued a guilty verdict. Commissioner McDowell, however, dissented, using almost every inaccurate argument made by Comcast to defend his decision.
Yesterday, the increasingly isolated McDowell decided once again to put the facts aside.
Law and Order
In both his speech and the interview that followed McDowell tried to tie the FCC's Comcast decision to the Fairness Doctrine (which at one time regulated equal airtime for diverse perspectives in broadcast media).
He suggested that any FCC decision that supports Net Neutrality -- the idea that the Internet must be free and open -- is somehow tantamount to government regulation of content.
But contrary to these misleading assertions, Net Neutrality has nothing to do with empowering the FCC to regulate content. Net Neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet, and has been part of the Net since its inception. It says that no one -- government agency or corporate giant -- should be able to tell consumers what legal content they can access and share online.
It is absurd to equate Net Neutrality -- a principle that promotes and protects free speech on the Internet -- with any effort to regulate speech.
In reality, the FCC's decision is not about regulation; it's about law and order. If someone is caught red-handed committing a crime, their punishment is not regulation. It's justice. Comcast was caught illegally blocking free speech and the free market on the Internet and now they are being punished for their crime. Punished not with a fine, but with a reasonable request. The FCC simply told Comcast to stop.
The Grass is Always Bluer
Unsurprisingly, this dishonest effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt comes precisely at a time when bipartisan support for this important protection is growing.
Americans of all political stripes are tired of politicians saying the grass is blue and the sky is green. McDowell's blatant attempt to portray Net Neutrality as the exact opposite of what it is may go over well at industry-funded think tanks and in meetings with Comcast lobbyists, but everyday conservatives, liberals and independents can see through this fear mongering.
The bloggers over at TechRepublican said it best: "Without meaningful competition, consumers can't push for better service. I can get my high-speed Internet from Comcast, with all its attendant issues, or I can use dial-up. The FCC made the right decision [...] mandated content neutrality protects the customer without hurting competition."
It is disappointing that McDowell is responding to the genuine concerns of a nation about our digital future with threats that have no basis in reality. As American people across the political spectrum fight for a robust Internet system that connects all people to a safe, secure, and neutral Internet, the only way McDowell can oppose this movement is by twisting the facts.
Josh Silver is the Executive Director of Free Press. Josh Stearns is Campaign Coordinator at Free Press.
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