photo: Gavin St. Ours via Flickr

When President Obama was campaigning for his job, he didn’t mince words on the importance of the free and open Internet.

Here’s a video of him saying, “I am a strong supporter of Net Neutrality,” and, “As President I’m going to make sure that is the principle that my FCC Commissioner is applying as we move forward.” (Here’s a compilation of a few more.)

The FCC Chairman he appointed as President, Julius Genachowski, didn’t mince words either [pdf].

He said things like, “It is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it.” and:

“Broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider.”

But today, Genachowski proposed rules that wouldn’t protect the Internet and net neutrality — most importantly, instead of stopping corporations like Comcast from discriminating when they try to block Netflix unless Comcast gets paid big time, the proposed rules would give control of the Internet over to big corporations.

In one swoop, Genachowski is poised to break Obama’s promise and give the Internet away to big corporations like Comcast, to block and discriminate and extort as they see fit.  . . .

Internet expert, media lawyer, and professor at Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law Marvin Ammori, has the definitive rundown on why Genachowski’s proposal is garbage. Short version:

  • Corporations like Comcast would still be able to discriminate against services like Netflix to the point they are unusable so people use Comcast services instead unless Netflix paid huge fees to Comcast, stifling competition online.
  • You wouldn’t be protected from nearly any abuses on your mobile phone — wireless is almost completely exempted.
  • And the whole thing will get overturned in court in short order anyway, because Genachowski is refusing to reclassify and put the Internet on a strong legal footing.

Genachowski, despite his public declarations against things like discrimination and exempting wireless, is preparing to give the Verizons, AT&Ts, and Comcasts of the world exactly what they want — toothless, fake “net neutrality.”

Fortunately, Genachowski doesn’t have the votes to turn this garbage into real, legally binding rules. To get the votes, he’s going to need to make his proposal much less of a sellout.

Genachowski needs three out of five votes from the FCC Commissioners to pass a rule. So far, he’s only got one — his own. Nobody I’ve talked to thinks the two Republicans on the Commission will vote for any “net neutrality” rule, no matter how much of a giveaway it is, especially given the vitriol and lies emanating from the Republican party in Congress on this issue. So that means Genachowski is going to need the other two Democrats to vote with him to pass his rule.

Commissioner Clyburn is a Net Neutrality supporter. And Commissioner Copps is a Net Neutrality champion, having worked on the issue for 10 years and given speech after speech on its importance and the need to organize to make sure it is protected.

This is a rare instance where the compromise works in our favor — all these Commissioners need to do is hold out for real net neutrality, not fake corporate giveaways. With Genachowski under pressure to do something on net neutrality, failure isn’t an option. He needs their votes, so they have leverage to get what they want.

We can help make this happen — we can get the backs of Commissioners Clyburn and Copps. Click here to call their offices and tell them you think Genachowski’s rule is garbage, and that you’ll stand with them if they fight and hold out for more.

Genachowski might be too weak and beholden to corporations to stop himself from breaking Obama’s promise, but the other FCC Commissioners can hold him accountable and protect the free and open Internet from abuses like Comcast trying to block Netflix. All they have to do is negotiate.

(I’m proud to work for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee)

Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

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