The word out of Washington is that the Net Neutrality bill is dead, a victim of partisan politics. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) confirmed to the Washington Post's Post Tech blog that his net neutrality bill pretty much died after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) declined to support the legislation.
I just knew it was going to go down this way. Congress is divided by party lines and mid-term elections are expected to change the political landscape even more. I certainly never had much faith in Washington to get its act together and make the rules around Internet access a real priority. Did you?
Waxman is now urging the Federal Communications Commission to reassert its authority to regulate broadband access providers. And he's not alone.
Public interest groups are already leaning on the Federal Communications Commission - which doesn't have the authority to regulate broadband providers, according to a ruling in the infamous Comcast suit - to change the rules via reclassification of broadband service and do what Congress wasn't able to do. In a statement, Joel Kelsey, political adviser for consumer advocacy group Free Press, said:
We commit to continuing to work toward preserving an open Internet on all networks, and to making broadband available and affordable to all Americans... The FCC must exercise its authority to protect Internet users and implement the National Broadband Plan. Consumers are currently unprotected, and it would be irresponsible for the FCC to fail to act.
And just to ensure that this raging political firestorm over broadband has more fuel added to it, let's not forget that Google and Verizon submitted a compromised proposal to the FCC for consideration, a tactic that was not well-received when it initially surfaced back in August. Back then, public interest groups called on the FCC to abandon talks with the large companies with business interests at stake.
I said it then and I'll say it now: that's ridiculous. The FCC absolutely should be talking to and listening to the Internet companies. Sure, the Googles and the Verizons of the world have their own business interests and agendas. Don't we all?
But if there's anyone that I want to hear from on this debate, it's the companies who are on the front lines of technology, the ones that are positioned to introduce new technologies and accelerate adoption so that the U.S. doesn't continue to slip further and further down on the list of countries that are moving faster than us.
It's been almost two years since President Obama appeared on a YouTube video to declare that “It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption” and called for the adoption of a National Broadband Plan.
I'm not necessarily saying that a Google-Verizon proposal is the winner here. But I'm certainly not holding breath for Washington to get this thing right all by itself.
Congress has already proven that they can't do it.