New Evidence Administration Support of Net Neutrality Fading

July 15, 2011

Media reports apparently missed the subtle, but important and telling political weakening since April of the Administration’s official position in defense of the FCC’s beleaguered Open Internet Order.

  • This relative official softening of the Administration’s opposition to efforts to overturn the FCC’s controversial net neutrality regulations means that it is more likely on the marginthat:
    • This fall the Senate will passa Resolution of Disapproval of the unpopular, and small-constituency-supported, FCC Open Internet Order, and
    • The President in the end, will not veto a bipartisan, bicameral rejection of unnecessary regulation of the Internet, which threatens the economic growth and job creation, and which has miniscule voter support.

Bottom-line the Administration officially signaled, albeit cryptically, that it would not veto the House appropriation bill that funds the FCC, among other agencies, specifically over the Congressional prohibition of the FCC spending money on implementing the FCC Open Internet Order.

  • In the 7-13-11 Statement of Administration Position (SAP,) media reports missed the critically important distinction that the House’s FCC net neutrality funding prohibition did not make the list of objectionable items that “the Administration strongly opposes,” and that “his senior advisors would recommend a veto.”
    • The only “veto-bait” provisions in the appropriations bill according to the SAP are: defunding health care reform, undermining Wall Street Dodd-Frank reform, and changing Cuba policy.

The overriding dynamic at work here is that the economy is lackluster and job creation is anemic and we are approaching the 2012 political season.

The FCC’s ~9 month delay in publishing the Open Internet Order in the Federal Register appears to have backfired on the FCC because now the unpopular order will be thrown into the politically-driven Senate Resolution of Disapproval process this fall right in the midst of the beginning of the politically-charged Presidential election campaign season.

The political trend here appears to be as follows…

  • From April to July, the Administration goes from threatening a veto over the House Resolution of Disapproval to notthreatening to veto a House provision that would defund implementation of the order…
  • Senate Democrats up for election in 2012 then see that net neutrality is not a high enough priority for the Administration to veto an appropriations bill over in the House, so it becomes less of a priority for Democratic Senators to fight for in the Senate appropriations vote process…
  • If the de-funding of the FCC order then survives the appropriations process, then the Senate Resolution of Disapproval vote becomes a “free” vote for Senate Democrats up for re-election and the Senate disapproval resolution passes…
  • With the FCC order defunded, a Presidential veto then would basically be symbolic, and not worth it politically, given:
    • The Administration does not want to support unjustified regulations that threatens jobs;
    • A miniscule number of voters care about or support net neutrality; and
    • All 95 congressional candidates up for election in 2010 that pledged support for net neutrality  — lost.

While lots can change in the months ahead to possibly change this political dynamic, the overriding political trend is clear — as long as the economy and job creation are weak — votes or vetoes supporting net neutrality are political losers.

***

  1. 4-4-11 SAP hereon House Resolution of Disapproval;
  2. 7-13-11 SAP here on House Appropriations Bill that defunds net neutrality enforcement by the FCC.

 

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