Space Ramblings

What Killed Net Neutrality?

Over at ZDnet, Declan McCullagh’s Iconoclast column has a list of ten things that killed Net Neutrality. Now it’s not particularly accurate to say that anyone killed Net Neutrality because it was really never alive. Net Neutrality was one of those tech causes with no real lobbyist backing and one few politicians could even understand. The Democrats briefly flirted with Net Neutrality out of desperation and as another means to mobilize the grass roots. Once they got in power, they dropped it like a hot potato, because after all telecom companies contribute a lot more than the sort of Net Neutrality advocates who will probably dump their money on Mike Gravel or the EFF anyway.

Democrats may control Congress, but the White House and federal agencies matter. And the administration made it perfectly clear on Thursday that no new Net neutrality regulations are necessary. That gives the Republicans in Congress their marching orders, and a unified GOP front means the Democrats are more likely to expend ammunition elsewhere.

Unified is the one thing the GOP isn’t these days. There are Republican Senators and Congressman who support Net Neutrality. But it’s more accurate to say that there isn’t any real broad base of support for taking on telecommunications companies on either side of the aisle.

There’s also Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s speech last month in Aspen, Colorado that I covered. By Google’s standards, it was remarkably conciliatory: it mentioned Net neutrality only once and did not call for new federal laws. Schmidt even acknowledged “the billions of dollars that have been spent to do both wireless and wireline data deployment networks”–by the broadband providers that have been his political enemies for the last two years.

That’s probably the most telling sign that Google expects to find itself on the other side of the issue at some later date, quite possibly as a mobile broadband provider.

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