May 2, 2014 by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Barack Obama told us there would be no compromise on Net neutrality. We heard him say it back in 2007, when he first was running for president.
“We have to ensure [a] free and full exchange of information and that starts with an open Internet,” he said in a speech at Google headquarters, the presidium of cyberspace. “I will take a backseat 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. The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history and we have to keep it that way.”
He said it many more times. And defenders of Net neutrality believed him, that he would preserve Internet access for all, without selling out to providers like Verizon and Comcast who want to charge higher fees for speedier access – hustling more cash from those who can afford to buy a place at the front of the line. On this issue so important to democracy, they believed he would keep his word, would see to it that when private interests set upon the Internet like sharks to blood in the water, its fate would be in the hands of honest brokers who would listen politely to the pleas of the greedy, and then show them the door.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be Washington’s infamous revolving door. Last May, President Obama named Tom Wheeler to be FCC chairman. He had other choices, men or women whose loyalty was to the public, not to rich and powerful corporations. But Tom Wheeler had been one of Obama’s top bundlers of campaign cash – both in 2008 and again in 2012, when he raised at least half a million dollars for the president’s re-election. Like his proposed new rules for the Web, that put him at the front of the line.