Why Is John McCain Trying to Unplug Net Neutrality?

The self-declared "illiterate" computer user wants to stop the government from imposing net neutrality laws

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U.S. Senator and former presidential contender John McCain isn't pleased that the FCC voted to begin formalizing new net neutrality rules on Thursday, so he's introduced legislation to freeze the process. According to McCain's press release, the Internet Freedom Act "will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation," by prohibiting the FCC from enacting its proposed Internet provisions. Bloggers reacted to McCain's move with widespread condemnation, calling it ill-thought out, doomed to failure and worse:
  • McCain Makes His Case The Arizona senator explained himself a day before proposing the bill in an op-ed in the Washington Times. He reminded readers of the successful bipartisan move to prevent the Internet from being taxed during its early adoption phase, and suggested that the current FCC was being used as a tool by the Obama administration to increase government control of the private sector: "These new rules should rightly be viewed by consumers suspiciously as another government power grab over a private service provided by private companies in a competitive marketplace. Does this sound familiar? It should. Earlier this year, the government moved to control much of the auto industry and the banking industry, so it should come as no surprise that the government now wishes to control the technology industry by regulating its very core: the Internet."
  • 'An Exercise in Futility' Technologizer blogger Ed Oswald doesn't expect McCain's bill, or the net-neutrality oppostion, to get very far because it is coming up against a White House that staunchly supports the new rules: "It will be interesting to see how it plays out as net neutrality was one of Obama's campaign priorities. You can bet there will be a lot of vote counting being done in the coming months: Republicans will have to get a super majority as I would almost expect the President to veto any legislation like this if it makes it to his desk."
  • Not McCain's Domain Gizmodo's Danny Allen questions McCain's grasp of the issue, arguing that there are better-informed lawmakers who could more effectively oppose the FCC: "Lest we forget: [Does McCain use] Mac or PC? 'Neither, I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance I can get.' His words not mine. Even if you don't agree with the FCC, is this really the right guy to oppose them?"
  • Conservative Clique Daily Finance's Sam Gustin observes that McCain is one of many conservatives vocally against the FCC's net neutrality provisions. "Glenn Beck, the popular TV and radio host with 3 million nightly viewers, has blasted net neutrality as a 'Marxist' plot by the Obama administration to take over the Internet...Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, spoke out against the new rules at an event put on by the Safe Internet Alliance." He goes on to explain how the net regulations issue actually reflects a longstanding battle between the two parties over the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC rule that forced radio stations to present opposing views on controversial issues. It was scrapped in 1987 to Republican applause, paving the way for conservative talk radio.
  • What's the Rush? At least one conservative blogger, KurtTheInfidel thinks that McCain and others of the same mindset are jumping the gun when it comes to resisting the net neutrality rules: "What the FCC voted on yesterday is simply to start the debate. Its an open discussion, so what are net neutrality opponents afraid of? They have 120 days to gather information and collect data and present their case. If there are valid issues that need to be resolved, then go ahead and bring them to the table. Don't initiate legislation that seeks to pretend the table doesn't exist."
  • McCain's Money Trail Several bloggers bring up the fact that McCain and the telecom companies also opposed to net neutrality have a history: "McCain, it should be noted, received some $894,379 in contributions from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other telecom industry interests over his career-all of them opposed to the 'Net neutrality regulations the FCC hopes to implement," writes John Paczkowski at D: All Things Digital." Taking a much harsher tone, ZDNet's Dana Blankenhorn has little tolerance for lawmakers in either party who have been swayed by telecom dollars: "McCain was one of five Senators who voted against the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in 2003-04, when the Bells were consolidating into two companies owning local, long distance, core Internet, and wireless duopolies nationwide. What he called 'deregulation' was, and is, monopoly...This is actually a bipartisan rant. There are plenty of Democrats, at all levels, bought and paid for by the Bells. Do not listen to what politicians say. Watch what they do and follow the money."
  • Also, for those who need to catch-up on the larger political and economic implications of net-neutrality, the Atlantic's own Marc Ambinder provides this excellent primer.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.