Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tea Party opposes net neutrality

Net neutrality advocates have a new opponent with the backing of several large telecommunication companies: the Tea Party. Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally by service providers as has been the case until now, but many large telecommunication companies want to charge websites for faster speeds or block bandwidth-hogging users. Now, Tea Party "activists are doing their best to tip the scales toward the corporate behemoths, following conservative leaders' warnings that the [Federal Communications Commission] is plotting a government takeover of the Internet," Benjamin Sarlin reports for The Daily Beast.

"Conservative organizations active in the Tea Party, including billionaire David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s Freedomworks, are leading campaigns against Net Neutrality," Sarlin writes. Thirty-five Tea Party affiliated groups recently signed a letter to the FCC advocating against net neutrality. According to the Center for Responsive Politics the House Tea Party Caucus has received $350,000 from AT&T during this election cycle. The conservative backlash against net neutrality reflects a shift in recent years, Sarlin writes. "About five years ago, you saw Republicans and Democrats in support of net neutrality," Jonathan Askin, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and former FCC staffer in the Clinton administration, told Sarlin. "Now you see Republicans trying to frame this as an Obama issue."

"Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told The Daily Beast he was unaware of any specific outreach to Tea Party organizations, but that NCTA had no comment on the matter either way," Sarlin writes. Dietz added, "I think there's a natural alignment on this issue." Net neutrality supporters note that grassroots organizations, like the Tea Party, who rely on amateur-run Web sites are among those that stand to lose the most from an end to net neutral policies. (Read more)

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