Obama to Veto Legislation That Would Kill Net Neutrality

Officially joining the net neutrality debate after years of perceived dithering on the issue, President Obama has vowed to veto Senate Journal Resolution 6. That law, which petulantly states that "Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices..." is a version of a similar bill passed by the Republican-controlled House earlier this year. Lacking a credible veto threat, if passed it would overturn the weak Net Neutrality regulations approved by the FCC in December 2010 and set to take effect November 20.

The regulations under dispute were the result of a years-long back and forth between regulators, Internet service providers and the US court system. The first official rules requiring ISPs to adhere to some form of net neutrality were put in place by then-FCC head Michael Powell in 2005. They went unenforced until 2008, when the FCC ordered Comcast to stop sabotaging BitTorrent transfers. Comcast challenged the order in courts, and in 2010 the US Court of appeals for the DC Circuit struck them down, arguing that the FCC had no power to enact such rules. Thus the FCC created new regulations, which are now being challenged by Verizon in US courts. That the Democratic-controlled Senate is joining with a Republican House to assist Verizon legislatively is sad proof of the degree to which our elected representatives have been captured by interests opposed to the common good. 

Interestingly, the regulations are also being challenged by net neutralitysupporters. That's because, while they do enforce a kind of net neutrality for wired internet access, they impose few such rules on wireless services. Essentially, phone service providers cannot block alternate services like Skype from being used on their devices. Considering that wireless is quickly becoming the standard by which people access the Internet, the failure to impose net neutrality rules on providers has the appearance of a very blatant giveaway something akin to requiring strict emissions standards for passenger automobiles but exempting large SUVs. This rather massive laxity has led to charges from net neutrality supporters that the rules create a tiered Internet despite claims to the contrary, and that they all but approve of corporate censorship on wireless devices. 

However this ultimately plays out, I for one would hope Obama vetos, Verizon loses their cases, and supporters of Net Neutrality win theirs.