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Experts Say Net Neutrality Just Another Issue Hijacked By Partisan Politics

by Glen Luke Flanagan, published

WASHINGTON, DC -- The FCC's net neutrality ruling has many politicians up in arms.

Congressional Republicans launched a "fact-finding" mission on Tuesday about the ruling, and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush called the ruling "crazy." But these positions may be motivated more by politics than by concern about the new rules, according to Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press.

"There is nothing in the new rules themselves that are cause for concern," Karr said.

"In order to protect Internet users from content blocking, throttling, or other discriminatory practices, the agency had to reclassify Internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That is the only and best path in established law to get real net neutrality." - Tim Karr, Free Press

Karr added that some elected officials and federal bureaucrats are ignoring the facts about net neutrality in favor of a "politically expedient campaign" aimed at President Obama and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, who was appointed by the president. He said these strategies do not have the best interests of the American public at heart.

"Republicans have decided to attack every position taken by Obama on any given issue," he said. "This tactic didn't start, nor will it end, with net neutrality. Beyond the Beltway, net neutrality is an issue that has broad bipartisan support. More than 4 million people commented on the issue at the FCC, with the vast majority favoring net neutrality protections, and a series of recent polls show that registered Republican voters favor the principles behind net neutrality."

The numbers support these claims. A poll released in

November 2014 from the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication showed strong support for net neutrality across the political spectrum. Republican voters were even slightly more likely to support net neutrality, the survey found.

As the numbers indicate, the issues at hand have a wide-ranging appeal. Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Relations Director Rebecca Jeschke emphasized just how wide-ranging this debate is.

"We all know how critical the Internet is," Jeschke said. "It's the public square of the information age -- a home for free speech for people all over the world. And businesses big and small, corporate and independent, rely on the Internet to provide goods and services. There's a lot at stake."

Though challenges to net neutrality are unlikely to get very far under the Obama administration, Jeschke said the fight isn't over. Citizens must be watchful to make sure the FCC doesn't abuse vague language in the new rules. A release from EFF earlier this month highlighted the possibility of the FCC censoring activity it deems harmful to consumers and innovation.

As challenges to the ruling progress, net neutrality advocates see the fight as more than a battle over legal technicalities.

"Net neutrality is the principle that lets everyday Internet users chose their own media experience," Karr said. "Control over media is a powerful tool in any society. It's healthiest for democratic societies to guarantee that we all have the right to connect and communicate without interference. Net neutrality is the rule that protects this right."

Photo: FCC Chair Tom Wheeler / Source: AP

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