Credit where it's Due

With the Comcast ruling by the FCC, lots of well-earned congratulations are going ’round. Free Press is getting its props, and Larry Lessig is congratulating Kevin Martin.

But hey, we have our own local hero right here on Wetmachine.

So please join me in three cheers for Harold Feld!

Harold says the ruling is a big win. It is indeed a big win, and Harold, and all of his legally-trained & active colleagues at MAP and elsewhere deserve a lot of credit for it.

As a concerned citizen, I never could have participated in this whole process were it not for the legal guys who read the fine print, go to hearings, give testimony, explain the issues, and make it possible for the rest of us to advocate for ourselves. This ruling more than anything I’ve seen makes Harold’s point about citizen-led movements, because were it left up to the corporations, this all would have been over a long time ago, and we, the people, would have lost. And it would have been left up to the corporations if Harold Feld and others like him were not out there studying, strategizing, organizing and leading us.

I cannot help but view this Comcast ruling as an antifascist victory, for the reason given in item 5, in Harold’s analysis of the Order:

5) States clearly that protecting the open and vibrant character of the internet by prohibiting blocking or degrading of applications does not raise First Amendment issues. To the contrary such action furthers First Amendment values.

When I spoke to Mr. Martin at the reception following the “Net Neutrality/Comcast-seat filling” hearing at Harvard, I told him that for me the whole Net Neutrality debate came down to one fundamental thing: would we keep the Internet open to all as an engine of democracy; or would we hand it over to the corporations and the monied interests? Because if Net Neutrality were to go away, the net would surely become subsumed by the military-infotainment complex, and whoosh! the blogs, the small sites, the million and millions of individual voices would disappear. And Martin said something to the effect of “I’ve been thinking about that. I wish more had been said about that at the hearing today.” And he talked about net restriction in China and authoritarian states.

Earlier, Martin had spoken about a troubling comment he heard at Davos from a Chinese telecommunications official about how the cell phone GPS devices gave the state the ability to track the whereabouts of each of its hundreds of millions of cell-phone using citizens. Martin said that that comment had given him pause, and I believe him.

I also believe that Martin actually listened to me and took into account what I said, and that he listened to the similar opinions coming from the entire Save the Internet movement. I believe that our citizen-led movement was vital to this Order’s coming about.

We have seen, in the FISA debacle & the wiretapping that preceded it (and which presumably still goes on on a vast scale), the virtual marriage of the telecommunications companies and the State surveillance and control apparatus. I consider the FISA bill to be literally fascist, and it’s deeply troubling that Senator Obama (and Pelosi et al) are on the wrong side. We’re in a dangerous slide, <cough>my friends</cough>, and anything that slows our descent into a truly authoritarian/totalitarian/fascist corporatocracy is all to the good.

So to have Martin on the good side on this Comcast issue is no small deal at all. I can hardly bear to think what would have happened if Martin had sided with the Republicans on this one.

A few months ago, Harold posted a moving tribute to the courageous lawyers of Pakistan, whom Harold called his “brothers”, when they demonstrated for the rule of law– at grave risk to their livelihoods and their physical well-being. Harold is a passionate and articulate champion of the notion that the law matters. And that when difficult problems like this whole FCC-internet-Comcast thing come up, you roll up your sleeves, you dig in, you do your homework, and fight, legally, until you win.

So thank you, Harold, for fighting the good fight. Thank you very much. I’m proud to be be associated with you here on Wetmachine. You’re a mensch.

And now I invite any readers out there to say a hip-hip hooray in the comments, if they feel like it.


  1. I’m glad for the result, but I don’t have a warm fuzzy about a process that could have gone either way if no for heroic efforts and unexpected behavior by individual actors.

  2. Howard, you’re right. That’s why we need to change the law. Which is why we need to elect the right kind of people to Congress. This is merely a little plateau that stops us from rolling off the cliff. For now. But it’s better than if we had rolled off the cliff is all I’m saying.

  3. John. Thanks.

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