Last month the corporate-friendly majority on the Supreme Court struck down FCC rules that required Internet service providers (ISP) to treat all content equally. Known as “Network Neutrality,” these rules prevent companies like AT&T from providing fast service for Internet sites it favors, while impeding content from those it does not. Without Net Neutrality, you might try to access Dominoes Pizza, but your ISP could refuse that request and direct you to Papa John’s, who paid them to do so. Or they could simply slow down the connection to Dominoes so that you would give up and try some other pizzeria.
Net Neutrality insures that you are able to access any site on the Internet that you want without interference from your provider. Unfortunately, the big ISPs (i.e. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) oppose that freedom. They want to control your access and make either you, or the destination sites, pay them to open the highway to free-flowing traffic. Theoretically, they could just as easily obstruct your access to content they find objectionable politically, morally, or economically (i.e. their competitors).
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Democrats in Congress drafted the “Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014,” with the stated goal of…
“…restor[ing]the Open Internet Rules struck down by the D.C. Circuit in January 2014 prohibiting broadband Internet service providers from engaging in discriminatory behavior or blocking content altogether.”
Within hours the conservative opposition to the bill cranked up on behalf of the corporations that bankroll them. Prominent among them was the Koch brothers who have long been aggressive opponents of an open Internet. Their fake news wire service, Watchdog.org, quickly published an article that thoroughly mischaracterized the facts and featured a deceitful headline saying “Democratic federal lawmakers really want the FCC to regulate Internet.”
By casting this as an issue of regulation, the Koch brothers seek to marshal support for their anti-Internet agenda. To the extent that this bill can be portrayed as regulation, it is a regulation that guarantees more freedom for all users of the Internet. Granted, there is somewhat less freedom for ISPs to gouge consumers and inhibit free speech. Despite the fact that the legislation was drafted by Democrats, the only member of Congress that the article quoted was arch-rightist Marsha Blackburn who said…
“It’s more than ironic that the same Administration that can’t figure out how to make Healthcare.Gov work now thinks that regulating the Internet like China and Russia will make things better for American consumers.”
Clearly Blackburn doesn’t understand either Net Neutrality or the nature of Russian and Chinese censorship. It is Net Neutrality that actually makes the Internet more open, and the lack of it that permits government and corporate interference. But she is just another Republican who is doing the bidding of her well-heeled corporate donors.
True to form, Fox News picked up the story from Watchdog and ran it on their lie-riddled, community website Fox Nation with the headline “Dems Pushing FCC To Regulate Internet.” Fox News regularly publishes articles from the fake Koch brothers wire service that always seem to advance the interests of wealthy industrialists like the Kochs. It’s one of the perks of being rich enough to create your own “news” distribution outlet that can feed propaganda to friendly publishers like Fox.
In this case, Fox News is doing a disservice to their audience by failing to disclose the partisan interests of their source. But more seriously, they are feeding them disinformation about net neutrality that could result in a severe reduction in the freedom that has always been a part of the open Internet if Fox and the Kochs are successful.