As you may know, television broadcasters in my district are airing advertisements from a group called “Americans for Prosperity” suggesting that you are about to take over the Internet. As you definitely know, those allegations are untrue. Setting those ads’ fear, uncertainty and doubt aside, I have heard from many constituents and small businesses in my district that are worried of having new and innovative business ideas restricted by a prospective customer’s broadband provider. And at the Federal Communications Commission’s field hearing on July 21, 2008 at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, several witnesses agreed that the Internet – and other communications networks – were only useful if people had access to them and used them. As the Commission’s National Broadband Plan makes clear, more needs to be done to spur the deployment and promote the accessibility of open broadband networks for all consumers, including rural, low-income, and disabled Americans.
I have heard from stakeholders and constituents, from people on all sides of this debate. I have reviewed the Commission’s recent National Broadband Plan, the relevant statutes, the DC Circuit’s recent decision in Comcast v. FCC and your statements about the decision’s fallout. And I have come to the conclusion that if the Federal Communications Commission is to enact those goals, then we are left with only two options that I believe must happen concurrently.
First, the FCC must reclassify residential broadband services as Title II – Telecommunications Services. Instead of taking us back to 1996-era regulations, you proposed that the FCC forbear from enforcing certain requirements under that law, including wholesaling requirements and price cap regulations. I am sure that you did not come to this decision lightly, and I hope that as the Commission decides which regulations to forbear and which to enforce, that you keep consumers in the front of your mind.
Other Dems need to learn this lesson. When business front groups like Americans for Prosperity wail, whine and shriek about how any effort to protect consumers is socialism in disguise, you need to call them out and welcome their hatred. Because, as even generally pro-business Washpo columnist Steven Pearlstien recently wrote, the common thread in recent disasters from the financial meltdown to the BP oil platform was the utter failure of federal regulators to their jobs -- accepting industry assurances that nothing could possibly go wrong and swallowing malarkey that even a hint of regulation would deter investment, stifle innovation, and kill jobs.
Which brings me to this morning's mussar for Democrats in this midyear election. Let us read from Samuel I Chapter 15. God commands King Saul to go and destroy the Amalekites. But Saul spares the life of their king, Agag, and allows the people to plunder the best sheep and cattle. God sends Samuel to rebuke Saul. "Though you be little in your own sight, has not God made you king of Israel?" Samuel asks.
At first Saul protests that he has, indeed done what God wanted. Better even. He claims the people took the best plunder "to sacrifice unto the Lord your God." So, Saul implies, if you really wanted what was best for God, you would agree with me.
To this Samuel answers "to obey is better than sacrifice, to listen is better than the fat of rams."
Confronted, Saul at last admits the truth: "I have sinned, because I feared the people and hearkened to their voice." Samuel turns from Saul. Saul reaches out to catch Samuel by the sleeve, but the sleeve tears. Samuel then pronounces: "So too has God torn the kingdom from you, and given it to another, better than you."
Democrats who "fear the voice of the people" -- whether it is the angry mobs of the Tea Party protesters or the faux populism of corporate front groups -- risk getting their sleeves torn this November. A majority in their districts sent them to Washington to fix a host of problems. Though they may be little in their own eyes, they are our leaders. They must lead, not follow.
Mike Doyle knows the score. Perhaps other Democrats will figure it out as well.