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President Obama’s Christmas Gift to AT&T (and Comcast and Verizon)

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Posted on Dec 21, 2010

By Amy Goodman

One of President Barack Obama’s signature campaign promises was to protect the freedom of the Internet. He said, in November 2007, “I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose.”

Jump ahead to December 2010, where Obama is clearly in the back seat, being driven by Internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. With him is his appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, his Harvard Law School classmate and basketball pal who just pushed through a rule on network neutrality that Internet activists consider disastrous.

Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron told me, “This proposal appears to be riddled with loopholes that would open the door to all kinds of future abuses, allowing companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, the big Internet service providers, to decide which websites are going to work, which aren’t, and which are going to be able to get special treatment.”

For comedian-turned-senator Al Franken, D-Minn., the new rules on Net neutrality are no joke. He offered this example, writing: “Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a tea party group in your area).”

AT&T is one of the conglomerates that activists say practically wrote the FCC rules that Genachowski pushed through. We’ve seen this flip-flop before. Weeks before his 2007 net neutrality pledge, then-Sen. Obama took on AT&T, which was exposed for engaging in warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens at the request of the Bush administration. AT&T wanted retroactive immunity from prosecution. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton told Talking Points Memo: “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”

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But by July 2008, a month before the Democratic National Convention, with Obama the presumptive presidential nominee, he not only didn’t filibuster, but voted for a bill that granted telecoms retroactive immunity from prosecution. AT&T had gotten its way, and showed its appreciation quickly. The official tote bag issued to every DNC delegate was emblazoned with a large AT&T logo. AT&T threw an opening-night bash for delegates that was closed to the press, celebrating the Democratic Party for its get-out-of-jail-free card.

AT&T, Verizon, cable giant Comcast and other corporations have expressed support for the new FCC rule. Genachowski’s Democratic Party allies on the commission, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn (the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn), according to Aaron, “tried to improve these rules, but the chairman refused to budge, apparently because he had already reached an agreement with AT&T and the cable lobbyists about how far these rules were going to go.” Clyburn noted that the rules could allow mobile Internet providers to discriminate, and that poor communities, particularly African-American and Latino, rely on mobile Internet services more than wired connections.

Aaron laments the power of the telecom and cable industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C.: “In recent years, they’ve deployed 500 lobbyists, basically one for every member of Congress, and that’s just what they report. AT&T is the biggest campaign giver in the history of campaign giving, as long as we have been tracking it. So they have really entrenched themselves. And Comcast, Verizon, the other big companies, are not far behind.”

Aaron added: “When AT&T wants to get together all of their lobbyists, there’s no room big enough. They had to rent out a movie theater. People from the public interest who are fighting for the free and open Internet here in D.C. can still share a cab.”

Campaign money is now more than ever the lifeblood of U.S. politicians, and you can be sure that Obama and his advisers are looking to the 2012 election, which will likely be the costliest in U.S. history. Vigorous and innovative use of the Internet and mobile technologies is credited with helping Obama secure his victory in 2008. As the open Internet becomes increasingly stifled in the U.S., and the corporations that control the Internet become more powerful, we may not see such democratic participation for much longer.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By Christmas Trees, August 22, 2011 at 12:42 am Link to this comment

Interesting. I just wrote about this very fact that we must be responsible with our new found ability to communicate and share information through the world wide web. I fear, as many others do, that unless we consider what we are writing, it will be only a matter of time before those in power, those with money, those on boards of web engines will impose their will to control and monitor what is being published.

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By rtb61, December 25, 2010 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

And now a message from Ralph Nader, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibsP6XN2dIo and who is running defence for Obama, my god, it’s Fox not-News.
Has Fox not-News been running a charade for blue dog democrats. It is noticeable the mass media if giving the current Administration a much easier time of it recently as it’s right wing agenda is really starting to be questioned.
A big hoo haa about DADT, meanwhile corporations a creaming in the profits while the poor and middle class continue to do it hard.

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By WilliamAHuston, December 25, 2010 at 2:36 am Link to this comment

I love it when Al Frankin is quoted in the context of Free Speech. Wasn’t he one of the folks on the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted for the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which grants the Attorney General the power to seize internet domains without due process?

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/11/coica-web-censorship-bill/

And… it’s already begin…

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101217/01190512310/homeland-security-presents-evidence-domain-seizures-proves-it-knows-little-about-internet—-law.shtml

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By garth, December 22, 2010 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

The dire nature of the situation we are in has been belied by the progressive radio talk and in NBC Nightly News.  Both are hailing Obama as a great President.  As though he were showing his old stuff from the 2004 convention.  The great speechifier.

In the bit I saw on tv, when he was talking about the Dream Act, he comes off like a milquetoast, angry young black boy seeking approval from the Parent-teachers Association in some lily white community.

Fern Williams of NBC Nightly News kept saying that Obama’s bills will affect more Americans.  He should have added ‘negatively.’

For a measly 2% off the Payroll tax, he began the dismantling of Social Security.  That is historic and will prove to be.  The rest of the bills are ineffectual pablum.

The boon to the working American:  Property taxes will go up, local fees will mushroom and for a couple of bucks in each working person’s pocket, Obama wants to parade around like a deal-maker, the Great Compromise.

I think the last time they said that phrase in this friggin’ country there was a civil war.

How can so many be fooled by so few in such an obvious fashion is beyond me?

If I were to say anything to President Bumptious, it would be:  It’s the results that matter, you clam.  Now go home and do something.  Maybe something your mother taught you.  But stop masquerading as an American.

I hope you are a muslim, and you were born in Kenya.  I hope I never meet face-to-face an American as treacherous and two-faced as you.

You’re the absolute bottom.

You and G.W. could be playmates.

Meanwhile:

Sunbshine Sibelius says she’s going to watch the Health Insurance Companies to make sure they don’t go above a 10% increase next year.

A fucking 10% increase?  Who’s she shitting?

How much has pay gone up in the past 10 years?  I doubt it’s 10%.

Fact:  465,000 American families are worth $10 million dollars or more.

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By Bruce, December 22, 2010 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just one More Obamanible Lying DEM RENEGE!

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, December 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment

This is hardly a surprise. It’s obvious by now Obama is corporate America’s bitch.

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By garth, December 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

You know what COMCAST just did to me? 

It shut down my access to the Brodcast channels that I paid for.  I got a call from some person who refused to identify himself, asking me, innocently, “How’s my service?”

Well, a Chinese engineer I know uses an antenna and maintains his acccess to Brodcast tv. I know his name and I know where he lives for advice.

In the COMCAST world, what am I going to hear in an emergncy?  Bill O’Reilly, Larry King’s favorite moments?  C’mom!

I like CCTV and C-SPAN.  How much are they going to juice us for access to them?

Redisticting:

Listen to Guthrie

“California’s a garden of Eden
A paradise to live in or see,
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the dough re mi.”

Generations upon generations upon generations.
Americans are not American after all.  They are moving people.  They are slitherers.  Snake-like. 

Not thinking people.

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By BR549, December 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Garth,
Try not to dump so hard on Republicans. There are still many very fair and patriotic voters who also happen to want to stick to some measure of fiscal conservatism and tried and true values. And who else would they be able to vote for to achieve that end, the Democrats? The problem is that the same Republican Party that has clawed and scratched its way to the top in making voters believe that it actually represents fiscal conservancy is so dysfunctionally enmeshed with its competitor, the Democrats, that voters on both sides are getting hit with bait and switch routines and the voters loose every time. While we are each struggling with blaming the “other party” for all our country’s woes, these traitorous blackguards have abused their office while padding their own nests in Sodom and Gomorrah, D.C.

The Republican Party is only as dysfunctional as the Democrat Party and this week, we have found out exactly how much integrity those parties have. Lame Duck legislatures got their name because in the past they figured they had been emasculated by the wishes of the voters in November, but not so with this band of outlaws. Voters be damned, they were going to get their way.

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By garth, December 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm Link to this comment

Is this really news?  It’s all in the bag from here on out.

I think all we can do for now is cherish what is left.  And one of those is Amy Goodman herself. She shows true journalistic professionalism.  She might be one to be studied and copied.

For example, the Senate voted down the Dream Act.  I thought it was in spite.  But as DemocracyNow! pointed out the Dream Act poses more of a threat to the Republican’s new found dominance in the redisticting.  Most new voters are Hispanic.

It reminded me of the 60s when a lot of MA people, who are mainly Democrats started moving to NH.  It scared the hell out of William Loeb, the right-wing, gun-toting, hare-brained publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. 

Loeb’s fear reverberated throughout the state with claims like MA people want mote services and our taxes will go up. The old-line maniacs of NH moved farther north (that’s how bright they are.) and they are still active in places like North Conway.

NH did become slightly more Democratic over the years, but that was out of a desire for good government.

‘Jug Head’ Gregg might be the last buffoon to represent NH in the Senate.  Ayotte, though, might prove to be his equal.

The second generation of MA residents who moved to NH were financially successful.  They blindly became Republican.  But judging from the backbone of their political beliefs, they are Republicans as long as they are doing well.  Look out when the well runs dry!

They echo economic and political realities of their employers.  They are part of a team.

The question now is:  How are we going to get the information out there? 

It doesn’t take much to discern a fraud and a liar and a bullshit artist from someone who is authentic.

It doesn’t take long anyway.  Just give ‘em enough rope and keep your head up and your eyes and ears open.

Don’t feel taken.

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, December 22, 2010 at 10:42 am Link to this comment

Obama wasn’t in the back seat ..... he gave the thugs the keys to “our” new car
and wished them well as they sped away. He has one chance left and that is to not
sign it into law. Let’s see if he has any testicles.

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By NYCartist, December 22, 2010 at 9:39 am Link to this comment

I have broadband wireless…I am now at the mercy of my provider because it’s exempt from the regs.  I don’t know how long I’ll be able to afford the access to the internet.

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By G.Anderson, December 22, 2010 at 2:47 am Link to this comment

Obama, doesn’t really have to worry about financing his re election campaign, due to the fact that he’s likely going to be dumped by his own party in a primary challenge.

Even if that doesn’t happen he’s told so many lies, and broken so many promises, that his opponent will have a field day, with him.

Ralph Nader, called him a con man the other day. That was a direct hit that’s all he is.

Quite frankly, Obama no longer has any credibility.

That’s what happens when you betray the peoples trust.

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Queenie's avatar

By Queenie, December 22, 2010 at 1:57 am Link to this comment

People who take the back seat to no one usually end up in a wreck.

Capitalism is the enemy. We’ve got to get it down to size where we can drown it in a bathtub.

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