On Net Neutrality

POLITICO reports that the FCC commissioners have approved a controversial new plan that eviscerates the principle of net neutrality for websites and internet service providers. Net neutrality is the long-honored belief that the internet should not have a “fast lane,” that is to say that service providers should not be able to slow down service for a specific person or website. To premise is actually quite simple, as a completely deregulated internet would surely cause fasting internet for those who could pay more. This would obviously stifle innovation and hamper one of the best things of the internet: its inherent equality.

Like so many other items, when President Obama was first running for office, he was a vociferous supporter of net neutrality. Now that he is in office, of course, this sentiment has been defenestrated, so to speak. The FCC is guided by five commissioners, all of which were nominated by Obama. Of those, three are partisan Democrats and two are Republicans. The final vote in favor of the new rules gutting net neutrality was 3-2, you guessed it, along partisan lines. However, Republican opposition was due far more to a proposal to classifying broadband services as a utility, which has great implications for the overarching regulations.

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VRA could get fixed (in Texas)

The Dallas Morning News reports that a new bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to resurrect the floundering Voting Rights Act would include strong new protections against racial meddling in Texas. As the sagacious may recall, back in June the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to gut Section 5 of the Voting Right Act, which required the States of Jim Crow to get any election updates precleared by the Federal Government. The Court declared that the world had changed since the advent of this act in the 1960s, and that racism had been vanquished, thus exclaiming that such an antiquated formula was unconstitutional. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dean of the Court’s liberal minority and the author of a scathing dissent in this case, compared it “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

The Court’s blow to the Voting Rights Act was all the more harmful because it expected Congress to simply pick up the slack and fix the law by provided a new coverage formula for the aforementioned preclearence based on modern statistics. However, getting Congress to do anything is easier said than done. Accordingly, it was a very good sign yesterday when Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced a bill that would revive the coverage formula based on those States with recent VRA violations (i.e., Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas).

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