CITIZEN’S UNITED: AND YOU THOUGHT IT COULDN’T GET ANY WORSE!
WELL HANG ON TO YOUR DICKS GUYS CAUSE IT MIGHT GET A LOT WORSE!
Back in February of this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favor of keeping the internet open and free after years of wrangling. The Commission ruled this way primarily as a result of a huge public backlash against the rules that it had been proposing to adopt that included “pay-to-play” that Verizon, AT&T and Comcast were in favor of. So far so good. In effect, the FCC’s ruling means that our friendly internet service providers can’t discriminate against content and applications just like your cell phone company can’t restrict who you call. Hailed as a significant victory for “we the people” in our ongoing battles with our corporate overlords, it seemed as if the matter was finally settled.
But, of course, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast aren’t happy and are backing lawsuits against the FCC that are now wending their way through our court system. And guess what the basis is for their lawsuits? FREE SPEECH!
Yup, you got that right! Our anti-open internet internet service providers have turned the free speech doctrine on it’s head and are claiming that the ruling violates their rights as citizens to free expression since they engage in and transmit speech and the FCC rules have deprived broadband providers of their editorial discretion by compelling them to transmit all lawful content, including Nazi hate speech, ISIS videos, pornography and political speech with which they disagree. This is their argument. Frankly, other than shouting “FIRE!” in a jammed packed movie theater, I thought that this was what our First Amendment rights to free speech were all about. And, they claim that the FCC has overreached its powers based in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Of course, in my naïve view of the world, I have to ask, are internet providers capable of speaking?
Well, this is the very same conundrum that the Supreme Court faced in hearing the Citizen’s United case. And, while it might have been somewhat of a surprise to say nothing of a shockingly obtuse decision, we know what that resulted in: Yes, corporations are people too.
Fundamentally, this is precisely what Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are arguing. As “speechifying corporations” they have the right to say what does and what does not constitute valid internet speech, say between you and me or between me and some web site and they have a right to control who gets access, to which level of service we are entitled and how much we have to pay for such access.
As the lawsuits wend their way up the judicial ladder, it seems to me that this is a no brainer. After all, we can call whomever we want and say pretty much what we damned well please (discussions with ISIS recruiters excepted) even though our calls are monitored by the NSA. Problem is, the Citizens’ United case was equally clear to me and look what happened. Same with Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decisions. (How they upheld same sex marriage is a mystery that remains mystifyingly mysterious to me given their other recent rulings.) So once again, our conservative final arbitrator of all things legal and illegal will undoubtedly have to take on Net Neutrality sometime in our futures. And I, for one, am not betting on the outcome since I foolishly believed that both Citizens’ United and Hobby Lobby were no brainers.
Here’s today’s Post article;