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Net Neutrality in Congress tomorrow – Action Needed

Tomorrow at 2:30 pm, the Senate Commerce Committee will meet to discuss the administration’s National Broadband Plan. However, given the court ruling last week that the FCC can’t regulate the Internet under its current classification, the focus will be on net neutrality.

There are two ways to get net neutrality written into law – one easy and one hard. The hard way would be having Congress approve a net neutrality bill. That involves a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate. As we well know, it’s hard. The easy way would be to correct a Bush-era mistake, as explained by Josh Silver of Free Press:

Under intense pressure from phone and cable companies, the Bush FCC chose to reclassify broadband as an "information service" instead of a "communications service" that provides strong regulatory oversight of traditional telephone services. Problem is, the "information service" classification so lacks the required regulatory authority, that the court just decided the FCC can’t do anything. University of Michigan’s Susan Crawford explains it in detail here.

The good news is that there is a simple solution. FCC Chairman Genachowski must "reclassify" broadband as a "communications service." The formidable phone and cable companies will fight tooth and nail to keep that from happening, but the Comcast case has forced Chairman Genachowski’s hand: he must make the change. If not, the FCC has virtually no power to stop Comcast from blocking websites. The FCC has virtually no power to make policies to bring broadband to rural America, to promote competition, to protect consumer privacy or truth in billing. Bottom line: the agency has no power to enact the much-discussed National Broadband Plan, released just last month.

FCC Chairman Genachowski has been forced into a corner, and he will have to either stand up to the big companies and do the right thing, or watch his legacy at the FCC wash down the drain.

Tomorrow, Chairman Genachowski is testifying. It’s important that he hear from Senators that they are supportive of net neutrality and would support him if he chose to reclassify broadband so the FCC can regulate it.

Of course, the army of lobbyists the telecom companies have hired would like nothing more than to force net neutrality to go through Congress, where they could kill the bill outright or weaken it to the point of futility. They are right now working overtime to pressure Senators on the committee (and Senators in general) against reclassification.

But we have here a moment where public pressure can make a difference. Click here to send a message to your Members of Congress, asking them to support the FCC as it reclassifies broadband. And then give the members of the Committee a call.

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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.