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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Resistance to Net Neutrality Repeal Will Provide a Hot Mess for GOP

The timing of net neutrality repeal may well be a deliberate effort to distract voters from the brutal Republican tax bill. But net neutrality repeal may nonetheless make the GOP and its corporate supporters rue the day that they linked their images to this ill-considered measure. As John Nichols writes in his article, “Gutting Net Neutrality Is the Trump Administration’s Most Brutal Blow to Democracy Yet: This cannot be the end of a free and open Internet. Activists must fight on in the courts, in Congress, and in the streets” in The Nation:

…Despite overwhelming public support for a free and open Internet, the CFC’s Trump-aligned majority engineered a 3-2 vote to overturn net-neutrality rules that have required Internet service providers to treat all online communications equally—and, in a related move, the commission majority rejected the authority of the FCC to protect a free and open Internet.

Commission chair Ajit Pai, the telecommunications-industry lawyer who has done Donald Trump’s bidding in debates on a host of media and democracy issues, has cleared the way for service providers to establish information superhighways for political and corporate elites, while consigning communications from grassroots activists to digital dirt roads…Pai and his associates have moved to create what former FCC commissioner Michael Copps refers to as “a gatekeeper’s paradise,” where “our civic dialogue—the news and information upon which a successful self-governing society depends upon—would be further eroded.”

…Much of the debate about overturning net neutrality has been focused on the damage the move will do to consumers, and there can be no question that clearing the way for unprecedented profiteering by telecommunications corporations barters off our digital future to the same grifters who have turned broadcast- and cable-media platforms into vast wastelands of commercial excess. “ISPs want to turn the internet into cable,” says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA). “[They] want people to pay for every application.”

Nichols adds that “Net neutrality’s defenders will fight on in Congress, in the courts and at the ballot box to overturn this wrongheaded decision. Groups associated with the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition—led by the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and 18 Million Rising—intend to fight on for net neutrality with legislative and legal strategies…State attorneys general will also be suing. California, New York and Washington have all announced plans to sue — and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he expects to that many more states will join the initiative.”

It’s hard to imagine any other initiative that would do more to piss off young voters. David Shepardson and Ginger Gibson of Reuters explain how “Net neutrality repeal gives U.S. Democrats fresh way to reach millennials,” and observe that “Democrats are hoping to paint the repeal of the rules by the FCC, which is now chaired by President Donald Trump appointee Ajit Pai, as evidence Republicans are uninterested in young people and consumer concerns at large.” Further,

Studies show young people disproportionately use the internet compared with older Americans and polls have shown they feel passionately about fair and open internet access. Democrats believe the issue may resonate with younger voters who may not be politically active on other issues like taxes or foreign policy…Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said polls have found young people are favouring Democrats in the most recent elections and that the net neutrality issue could be used to gather support in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

He said while older voters tend to care about Medicare, polls are finding that younger voters are motivated by net neutrality…”Net neutrality is the latest data point for voters that the administration is more interested in doing what big companies want them to do, than what people think is in their interest,“ Ferguson said. ”That’s a narrative that is politically toxic for Republicans.”

Gibson and Shepardson note that “Democrats facing difficult election battles next year are already weighing in strongly in favour of net neutrality rules…Senator Bill Nelson likely will face a difficult battle in Florida and sent a letter earlier in the week opposing the change in net neutrality rules. Several Democratic candidates are sending campaign fundraising appeals citing net neutrality…The changes could also become issues in a number of House races across the country, where Democrats will need to win more than 25 seats to control the chamber.”

Harper Neidig writes at The Hill that “More than 80 percent of voters oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to repeal its net neutrality rules, according to a new poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation…The survey presented respondents with detailed arguments from both supporters and opponents of the repeal plan, before asking them where they stood on the rules. It found that 83 percent overall favored keeping the FCC rules, including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents.”

Regarding congressional action to challenge net neutrality repeal, Don Seifert writes in the Boston Business Journal that, “Just minutes after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal rules intended to bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing down specific websites, Sen. Edward Markey said he’s filing a bill to put it back in place…Markey authored a resolution, which was signed on by 14 other Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would rescind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vote to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules.” Expect that Markey’s bill is going to get a lot more Democratic sponsors in short order.

As for protest against coporations behind the repeal of net neutrality, it’s clear that three companies more than any others, are spear-heading repeal. As Lee Drutman and Zander Furnas note at the Dot,  “Going back to 2005 (when the phrase “net neutrality” first shows up in lobbying disclosure reports), the principle’s biggest opponents (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and their allies) have lobbied against net neutrality about three times as hard as the biggest proponents of neutrality…” These three companies are highly vulnerable to boycotts and stockholders campaigns.

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