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Monday, March 21, 2011 

Issa’s net neutrality double talk

 

Darrell Issa has a long history in the tech industry, with close ties that continue today -- and have recently gotten him in some trouble. More personally, he's also a notorious tech junkie, unable to resist fiddling with new gadgets and the tech toys of everyone around him. So if anyone should understand how important net neutrality is, you'd think it would be Darrell Issa. But instead, he's been steadfast in walking the corporate conservative line, adopting the favorite industry astroturf demand that the government not protect equal access.
 
He wasn't able to stop the FCC from taking steps towards protecting net neutrality, but since the ruling Issa has pressed the interests of his second-largest source of campaign contributions (AT&T), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (good for tens of thousands to Issa), and the Communications and Electronics industry that's pumped more than half a million dollars into Issa's coffers.
 
The budget CR passed by the Republican House of Representatives recently includes a provision to prevent the FCC from spending any money to implement net neutrality, and while negotiations continue there, Issa is continuing to press. In the last week, he's revived a line that he first explored in late 2009, probing accusations that the FCC improperly shared information about net neutrality guidelines with the Obama Administration. The chairman of the FCC sent a reply to Issa, rather definitively rejecting these concerns, and suggesting strongly that Issa is fishing:
 
The Communications Act of 1934...does not prohibit communications between Commissioners and Commission staff and members of the Administration...In this instance...the open Internet matter was an "exempt proceeding" under the ex parte rules... Thus, for example, no disclosure requirements applied in September 2009. Moreover, the Commission's Office of General Counsel is not aware of any potential violations of the ex parte rules in connection with the subject matter of your letter.
 
There's a bright, straight line between the people who fund Darrell Issa and the net neutrality position he's staked out, and since that isn't enough, he's casting around for any other ways to stymie basic protections of fair internet access. It's a familiar play- he's done the same with health care, the same with stimulus projects, the same with EPA regulations providing basic health protections.
 
When it was the Bush Administration, Issa said "We're supposed to allow the Administration to do its investigation, and then we do oversight -- we're not investigators." But now it's clear that he's dead set on not only being an investigator, but being an investigator carrying water for his partisan, corporate backers who aren't concerned with actual oversight, but with stopping and dismantling the Obama agenda. That might be fine elsewhere, but the Oversight Committee has a much higher -- and more important -- role to play as a nonpartisan watchdog in pursuit of better government.

 

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