As a card-carrying, liberal, progressive Democrat who served in the Clinton White House and was a Maryland Clinton Delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention; a telecommunications lawyer who has spent a career fighting Comcast and other big cable companies; and a 100 percent supporter of the Obama Net Neutrality decision, I hate the fact that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is gearing up to gut the open Internet rules. But I say to my fellow progressive Democrats, look on the bright side: once Pai guts Net Neutrality, we actually might like what the cable executives do to protect us from the "fake news," smears, and bile from Breitbart, Drudge, and the other conservative megaphones on the Internet.
You see, as much as I have fought with big cable, if the Democrats in charge of Comcast/NBC who brought us Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Brian Williams want to do so, they can block subscribers from getting Brietbart and any other conservative voice on the Internet. And maybe that’s OK.
Executives at Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters, including CEO Brian Roberts and EVP David Cohen (who used to work for former Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa.) raised millions of dollars for Hillary Clinton and preside over what I think is some of the best Trump resistance media available today, including NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" and MSNBC’s lineup of high-quality journalists and commentators.
Once Chairman Pai guts the net neutrality rules, which he now has made clear he will do, that same liberal editorial policy will govern what Comcast broadband subscribers can and can’t get over the Internet. Perhaps even the Twitter president’s own tweets will get filtered by cooler heads.
Without strong net neutrality rules, broadband providers have the ability to do all kinds of things with your Internet connection. They can block your access to any Web site. They can slow down the speed of some Web sites and speed up others, so that video can appear choppy and blurry from one site but crystal clear from another.
They can charge some Web sites a high fee for the privilege of connecting to the local access network, or waive the fee altogether for websites they own or happen to prefer. In other words, broadband providers like Comcast have the power to do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to your online activities.
So if the Philadelphia Democrats who run Comcast get a call from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asking to stop "fake news" or offensive language from Breitbart, Drudge, or — yes — even Newsmax, they might decide that to protect the Comcast/NBC brand, they will block, slow, or otherwise tamper with subscribers’ access to those Web sites.
After all, included among the hundreds of advertisers who recently pulled their ads from Breitbart was Earthlink, a broadband provider. It really is not that big a step to go from pulling ads on Breitbart to blocking the site altogether.
Before decrying Chairman Pai’s evisceration of the Net Neutrality rules, perhaps progressives should take a moment to consider that it will be Donald Trump’s own FCC Chairman who will allow Democrats in charge of big cable companies to silence some of Trump’s biggest supporters in digital media. What a delicious irony.
Of course, my preference would be just to keep the rules as they are. But that’s just an old fashioned liberal, progresssive Democrat talking.
David Goodfriend is a Washington, D.C., lawyer and former Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton. To read more about David Goodfriend, and his reports, Go Here Now.
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