Was it only last month when network neutrality was supposedly dead, deceased, passed on, expired, gone to meet its maker, run down the curtain, and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible? Yet here we are, with a network neutrality rule teed up for a vote at the FCC’s December 21 meeting. Even more surprising, it appears that a number of long-time opponents may actually be willing to come to the table on a compromise rule, with AT&T’s Jim Cicconi practically living in the Chairman’s office for the past few weeks presumably negotiating over the details of a proposal. Mind you, if the proposed rule is too much of a compromise, network neutrality supporters will oppose it. And, even if major carriers support it, Republicans at the FCC and in Congress are dead set against it. But for the moment, network neutrality appears to have once again gone from “totally dead” to “certain to become law.”
Truth is, network neutrality has been declared dead so many times it ought to have its own movie or television franchise. I picture Jim Cicconi as Dr. Evil staring at a garishly dressed Josh Silver as Austin Powers and saying: “But you died in that landslide election, when my Tea Party sharks with laser-beams grafted to their skulls had you trapped in their lair!” Josh flips back his hair and replies: “Network neutrality will never die, baby. It’s too shaggidelic!” Or perhaps I, in my secret identity as Perry the Platypus, will once again foil Scott Cleland as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz as he attempts to destroy the open internet with his Close-Internet-Inator (besides, I think FCC Chair Julius Genachowski and Chief of Staff Eddie Lazarus would look cute dressed as Major Monogram and Carl). Or perhaps a looming Voldemort-eque composite of the cable industry will turn its high power lobbying wand on a Network Neutrality Harry Potter (played by Sascha Meinrath, since Ben Scott is no longer available) and asking “Why do you live?” and a defiant Meinrath answers: “Because I have something to live for!”
But while network neutrality appears almost comically unkillable, that does not mean those pushing for strong network neutrality rules will actually prevail. As The Mikado once observed: “it’s an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances.” Hence the concern over the actual substance of the rule and the endless last minute wrangling.
Why Network Neutrality keeps coming back from the dead but why supporters still need to pull out the stops to get a strong rule below . . . .