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Get ready for the right-wing onslaught against net neutrality

The lobbyist-funded teabag wing of the Republican party machinery is working in close consultation with telecom companies and organizations like the American Cable Association, AT&T, Comcast, and the US Telecom Association to stop the FCC’s planned protection of net neutrality, which was announced last week.

Having lost the insider lobbyist battle within the FCC – Chairman Genechowski announced he would move forward after a recent court case invalidated the FCC’s authority to protect net neutrality and roll out broadband access for millions of Americans by reclassifying broadband Internet service, allowing the FCC to protect the Internet – the opposition has gone reactionary. Funded by millions by big corporations, teabag front groups like Americans for Prosperity and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform are getting involved, hurling charges of marxism, socialism, and the laundry list of laughable right-wing complaints.

It’s always amazing to me how much money the corporate right has to throw around. Americans for Prosperity just announced $1.4 million in advertising to "expose FCC’s proposed Internet takeover." Never mind that net neutrality is the current practice in this country and the FCC is only interested in protecting what we already have and that net neutrality means nobody, not the government nor the big cable and phone companies gets to decide what’s on the Internet – $1.4 million is going to be spent at the drop of a hat.

I’m sure the more grassroots elements of the tea party will get involved – they can rarely stop themselves from being led around by the nose by Washington lobbyists for corporate interests. But I’m skeptical that this push will have much of an effect.

First, there’s the history. Teabaggers have been throwing the moniker "socialism" at everything since Obama was elected. So far, none of it has stuck. The economic recovery passed. Health care reform passed. Wall Street reform is about to pass. All these things are "socialist" according to the angry right wing, and the name calling hasn’t worked. (It probably doesn’t help that recent Pew polling has the American public favoring socialism and capitalism in equal measures.)

Second, there’s the process. The FCC withstood a lobbyist (and faux-grassroots) onslaught, plus one from the courts, before coming out in favor of protecting net neutrality. It’s unclear whether this new effort will change their minds once more, especially given that the pro-net neutrality forces are numerous and organized (and truly grassroots). If these clowns can’t get the FCC to change their mind with charges of socialism, they’ll have to get changes passed through Congress expressly forbidding the FCC from regulating the Internet. It’s hard to see Congress passing such a bill or President Obama signing it.

And finally, there’s the right-wing grassroots. While they’ve been remarkably susceptible to corporate lobbyists so far, recent efforts at passing a Fed audit and primary fights with party-backed politicians in various states hold out at least a sliver of hope that right wing teabaggers might not play lobbyist stooge forever.

Still, the campaign will be intense. Think Progress reports on their plans, including leaked memos:

ThinkProgress has obtained a PowerPoint document which reveals how the telecom industry is orchestrating the latest campaign against Net Neutrality. Authored by representatives from the Atlas Network — a shell think tank used to coordinate corporate front group efforts worldwide — the document lays out the following strategy:

– Slides 7-8 calls for the campaign to target “libertarian minded internet users and video gamers” and “social conservative activists” with anti-government messages and a rebranding of net neutrality as “Net Brutality.”

– Slide 9 calls for a strategy of creating a Chinese blog to compare net neutrality to Chinese government censorship, outreach via social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

– Slides 10-11 detail how representatives met at Grover Norquist’s infamous “Wednesday morning meeting” to orchestrate the new campaign. Norquist is known to use his Wednesday meetings to plot strategy and conservative coalition building towards lobbying goals.

The astroturf is headed our way. Now that it’s in full opposition, I think we can expect more forthrightness from Obama. He likes to make deals with industries to get them on his side when he can, but when he can’t, he paints them as an enemy, as he’s doing now with financial reform.

Ultimately, it’ll be up the the FCC, Chairman Genechowski, and the Obama administration to brush off the corporate bullshit and keep on with their plan.

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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.

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