Polis Narrowly Avoids “Net Neutrality” Disaster

Roll Call reports:

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who made his initial fortune during the Internet boom a decade ago, is now backing away from an anti-net-neutrality letter that he signed last week.

Polis began soliciting co-signers Tuesday for a new letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski that asks the agency “to join us in our effort to ensure that it remains an open-access network” when the FCC begins writing rules this week on the contentious issue.

“We believe that the proposed rules enhance the FCC’s historic commitment to competition and innovation, and are necessary to ensure that internet users can go to any legal web site and access any legal online service that they choose,” Polis writes in the draft. “The internet is one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements and the most powerful infrastructure for free speech and innovation.”

Polis’ apparent change of heart is in marked contrast to an anti-net-neutrality letter that he signed off on last week along with 71 other House Members…

“We write to express both our hopes and concerns related to upcoming [FCC] proceedings focused on the deployment and use of broadband networks,” Members wrote in the first letter. “As the FCC embarks on its much-anticipated rule making addressing the subject of ‘net neutrality,’ we therefore urge the commission to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment.”

Not too different from his eyebrow-raising statements on health care reform a couple of months ago, Rep. Jared Polis was forced into a full-scale backpedal after he signed onto a letter that was (sorry, no debate here) obviously intended to attack net neutrality proposals presently under consideration. In subsequent comments at Daily Kos and other “netroots” venues, Polis has denied that the original letter was ever intended as an attack on the principle of net neutrality.

Unfortunately, nobody involved with the issue bought that for a minute. This is a bigger problem for Polis than it is for others who signed the original letter–Polis heavily courted the “netroots” during his run for office, and net neutrality is one of their biggest issues. Said one influential net neutrality activist in response to Polis’ ‘surprise’ at taking heat, “perhaps you should have thought twice before signing on to a letter that was orchestrated by the phone and cable lobby to be a warning shot across the bow of FCC commissioners.” To try to claim that the letter somehow didn’t say what it plainly said…well, these activists know better and they don’t appreciate being patronized.

Having already upset this influential base of support with his string of regrettable comments about health care, Polis surely didn’t need this gaffe. We’re not saying he’s in real career-threatening political trouble, but he’d be foolish to think people aren’t paying attention.

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  1. The realistThe realist says:

    You can’t expect people to not notice when you totally reverse positions on an issue, and you certainly can’t expect people to believe that your second position is the same as the first when it’s not.  And I’ll add, it’s insulting when a few posters here try to pretend there was no reversal.  I don’t pretend to understand the net neutrality issue in great depth, but I sure understand the concept, and I can read the language in the first and second letters.  Congressman Polis, in my opinion, needs to provide a full explanation of what’s going on.  

    • redstateblues says:

      I think that the Congressman is still trying to find his way when it comes to Washington. He’s a magnanimous person, and sometimes I think he gets so swept up in bipartisan cotton candy good times feelings that he goes too far. That’s about the only explanation I can come up with, and it certainly doesn’t excuse the flip flop.

      That said, Polis isn’t an idiot. He knew the original letter was exactly what Pols described it as. The quick turnaround says to people that his convictions can be quickly changed by the outcry of his progressive colleagues, friends, and constituents.

      I remain a fan of Rep. Polis, but he needs to stop saying one thing to Republicans in the House, and saying another to the people in CD-2 and Colorado who supported his candidacy.

  2. Middle of the Road says:

    and I’m sort of grateful he did. I’d still very much like Polis to explain himself but I’m highly doubtful that’s going to happen.  

  3. Middle of the Road says:

    Lads, why did Perlmutter sign the original letter and why aren’t we talking about him, too?  

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      Where it’s justified, here like anywhere else, but Polis is much more closely aligned with the “netroots” activists for whom net neutrality is a core issue.

      • Libertad says:

        Perlmutter has quietly lined up with his base –  union members, the CBC and jobs.  

        Unlike bed wetting Pelosi drones, Ed is a thinker.  Cast this issue for what it is “Internet Regulation”.

        http://www.cnsnews.com/news/ar

        If being the growling lap dog of Google (and I love and use Google) is all you care to be, then jump on board with “net neutrality” and carve outs for Google.

        Face it, Level3 & Lucent are big contributors, but Google and Ebay are much bigger.  What likely focuses Perlmutter is that politics is local, not to mention the CBC has a new recuit in one Ryan Frazier.

        When faced with corporate on corporate legislative crime masked as protection for the People, it’s an easy call.  You line up for jobs, the guy who buys ink by the barrel, and constituent jobs.

        http://www.mydd.com/story/2007

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      We haven’t seen Perlmutter out there trying to claim the first letter doesn’t say what it plainly says, certainly not to some of the foremost activists on the issue.

      • Middle of the Road says:

        My question remains unanswered other than the tired chestnut about Polis’s “deep” connection to netroots activists. I’m in total agreement that he backtracked but since it really isn’t my particular issue, I have to admit I more or less took his word for it because I just don’t care that much, to my great shame. That said, I’d very much like to see some folks taking Perlmutter to task for his position and make some effort to put some pressure on him to change his mind.

        We are going to need every vote we can get. It appears hee is uninformed about net neutrality, and worse, he’s basically getting a free pass on his accountability on the issue from this and other blogs and bloggers.

        So, that’s my question–WTF is up with that?

        • The realistThe realist says:

          I live in Congressman Polis’s District, not Congressman Perlmutter’s District.

          • Middle of the Road says:

            but since each of their votes ends up affecting me, I actually care what both of them think. Isn’t that a novel thought? 🙂

            • The realistThe realist says:

              So let us know what you find out when you call Congressman Perlmutter’s office to learn his reason for signing the original letter.

              • Middle of the Road says:

                Left a message on his DC phone. But thanks for assuming we’re all sitting on our asses like you.  

              • Middle of the Road says:

                Perlmutter’s office just spoke with me and said he definitely supports net neutrality.

                When I pressed the staffer on why he signed an anti-net neutrality letter, the staffer had no explanation and repeated he supports net neutrality. When I further pressed her, I was put on hold and when she came back, she said there was no one to answer my question but they would send me a written letter clarifying his position.

                So, feel free to hold your breath until I check my mail. 🙂  

                • ThillyWabbit says:

                  In both offices.

                  • Middle of the Road says:

                    When I made mention that Polis had signed the same letter but was now backtracking and that perhaps both of the Congressmen hadn’t really understood what was in it, the staffer emphatically and suddenly insisted, “Oh, he read the letter before he signed it.”

                    Well, if he read the letter and understood it why the hell did he sign it and why can’t anyone in his office explain the discrepancy between his unequivocal stand and his signing of an anti-neutrality letter?

                    To the staff’s credit, they were all very polite and tried like hell to find an answer but they were clearly scrambling and caught off guard by the questions.  

  4. and another thing says:

    Wait a second, Pols is blasting Polis for listening to his constituents?  I thought we all want representatives who listen rather than those that dig in their heels.

    • sxp151 says:

      I suppose he didn’t want to admit he signs letters without reading them, or that he signs letters without understanding them, so instead he claimed the letter meant the opposite of what it meant.

      Polis hasn’t admitted that he changed his mind or withdrawn his endorsement of the original letter. He just imagines you’re so stupid you don’t realize he’s taken two completely contradictory stances in a week.

  5. korvix1 says:

    I suppose he didn’t want to admit he signs letters without reading them, or that he signs letters without understanding them, so instead he claimed the letter meant the opposite of what it meant.

  6. BlueCat says:

    because he has an unfortunate habit of going for the big splash without thinking things through or paying a lot of attention to detail.  Remember the fuss caused by the lousy writing of his pet Amendment 41?  The Denver Post front page story about more clarification still taking place reminded me. http://www.denverpost.com/fron

    If he were in any danger of losing the seat he might learn to use better judgement before he fires these things off.  He’s not so we can probably expect more of the same.

  7. Jambalaya says:

    …this issue flies over my head at great speed.  Why should be people be worked up over it?

    • sxp151 says:

      is that internet service providers could start restricting access to certain web sites, either by blocking them entirely or giving other users priority. (For example, imagine two AT&T subscribers both surfing the internet at the same time. One is buying a new AT&T cell phone on their web site, and the other one is watching cat videos on YouTube. AT&T might make sure that the first person’s site always loads first, and the other person doesn’t get to load anything until the first one is done.)

      Cable companies already do this. If you get the cheapest plan, you get Fox News but not MSNBC, which means the cable company is essentially encouraging the ratings of certain channels and blocking out information for other customers. Imagine if the same thing were true for the internet. For example, people who use the internet at the public library weren’t allowed to go on Colorado Pols because the library didn’t have the premium subscription.

      So far internet providers haven’t really done this, but it’s really only out of the goodness of their hearts. The potential exists for them to start doing it. It might look like the following (don’t know who created this image).

      Net neutrality would be a set of rules made by the FCC governing all internet providers stating that they cannot give any web site (or email service, or FTP server, or music download site) preferential treatment over any other. As long as someone pays for any service, they can load all pages equally well. These rules currently don’t exist.

      Polis’ original letter asked the FCC not to make any new rules since it might stifle innovation. His current letter asks for just hte opposite.

      • Jambalaya says:

        my head in spinning a bit, but I think I’m getting it (more than before anyway).  Gracias.

      • RedGreenRedGreen says:

        One quibble though —

        Cable companies already do this. If you get the cheapest plan, you get Fox News but not MSNBC, which means the cable company is essentially encouraging the ratings of certain channels and blocking out information for other customers.

        It’s certainly true cable companies decide which stations to carry in which packages, but the Fox-MSNBC split doesn’t result from this. MSNBC switched to an all-digital feed earlier this year (along with some other channels), so can’t be carried on the cheapest basic plan. It’s available on the cheapest digital cable plan along with Fox.

        • sxp151 says:

          has been around for many years, I think.

          http://edschultz.invisionzone….

        • parsingreality says:

          All channels.  

          • RedGreenRedGreen says:

            not cable. You pay extra for the all-digital cable package.

            • parsingreality says:

              Our TV is analog and we are on Comcast (Ugh.) They take all digital signals and convert them to analog through the box.

              Before February there were a few issues about a channel not working when it always had. Turns out the History Channel, for instance, had already converted to digital but the channel had changed in the process.  

              So, there is no digital difference between any stations if you are on cable and have a box.  

              • RedGreenRedGreen says:

                … if you are on cable and have a box

                .

                There’s the rub, parsing. Not everyone on cable has a box.

                Honestly, who cares, but there’s plenty of cable delivered to older, analog TVs without boxes (in my house and the houses of the majority of people I asked in a quick e-mail survey — the cable threads directly into the back of the old TV). The all-digital package costs extra, and because MSNBC only broadcasts in digital, it’s not available on the least expensive Comcast plan. At some point this will change and cable companies will deliver everything digitally (at least according to the several Comcast reps I’ve asked about this), but that’s not the case now.

                • parsingreality says:

                  …It’s digital signal to either the TV, which obviously won’t work on an analog, or through the box.

                  Are you sure you don’t mean HD instead of digital? Now, that requires and HD set which can, of course, take cable input directly.  

      • Thanks for an excellent description of net neutrality.  

        Another point is that these companies like AT&T, Comcast etc. would gain enormous power to stifle small businesses like start up internet companies or companies that just don’t agree with their political agenda.  You either play with them or you are shut out.  

        If one thinks back to the good old days of the plain old telephones (POTS) it would be like charging Neiman Marcus one fee and charging Good Will another.  They make more money on Neiman Marcus and very little on Good Will so they charge a higher fee to Neiman Marcus and shut out organizations like Good Will that provide community services.  

        In keeping with the POTS example of years ago Americans and telephone companies knew they were using public land (telephone pols and cables were erected and still are constructed on public land) and airways to provide their services therefore it wouldn’t have been acceptable for this kind of behavior.  It’s the same today but Americans have been so dumped down most can’t even grasp the implications of being anti-net-neutrality.  I can tell you it is bad.

        I’ve read that some union workers are saying that the big telecoms will refuse to invest in infrastructure and this will mean fewer jobs.  To this I say bullshit.  Telecom companies have been shedding jobs and screwing workers for three decades now and the only ones who benefit from all these mergers, acquisitions and new revenue streams are the few at the top like the CEOs and the CFOs and a few who have made it big spitting out deals that result in layoffs by the thousands and don’t provide the public with a better product only a more costly product and no competition.  

  8. sxp151 says:

    From his response to me at SquareState:

    The letter I drafted is in favor of net neutrality. Sometimes the concept is vague, and experts disagree over how to manifest net neutrality, but in my letter I define it consistent with the four principles described by the FCC in FCC 05-151 in 2005 plus the two new principles the first of which would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications and the second of which would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

    I also signed the other letter that you link to above which does not take a position on net neutrality but includes some important factors for the FCC to consider. It was signed by both opponents and supporters of net neutrality.

    The FCC is meeting THIS Thursday, Oct 22nd, hence the timely nature of my letter which is currently being circulated for signatures by other members of Congress.

    I hope this clarifies the two letters and this very important issue.

    Jared Polis

    Ah, I see, the claim is now that the anti-neutrality letter is actually neutral on neutrality. Despite its plain language against any form of regulation. Clear as mud.

    • Middle of the Road says:

      Or is it just me?

      Thanks for posting this, sxp.  

      • I’ve spoken with JP before, about net neutrality specifically, and he clearly understood it well, and was strongly for neutrality.

        I also signed the other letter that you link to above which does not take a position on net neutrality but includes some important factors for the FCC to consider

        What “important factors” was the first letter talking about, then? It certainly didn’t seem clear when I read it.

  9. indipol says:

    Some offices on the Hill are known for iron-clad control by the CoS and LD of any letter, bill or amendment that the Sen/Rep signs on to.  Other offices are way more lax, and essentially any mid- to senior-level leg. staffer can sign the Rep on to a letter.  Clearly to me Polis is getting some rookie schooling in why not to give your staff a long leash.  He would have learned all these lessons had he come up through the normal “professional politician” ranks rather than jumping straight from zero real political experience to a House seat.  But he’s learning now, on the job.  At least it’s more exciting than watching grass grow, which is how it would have been with JFG in this seat.  

    Jared: get control over your staff, and quick.  Get a CoS and LD with some hard-nosedness.  

    • The realistThe realist says:

      Seems as if enough time has gone by since the Congressman took office that this wouldn’t still be an issue.  Is he hiring the kind of experienced staff he needs?  Maybe it’s time for him to take a closer look at that – safe seat or not, I doubt that he wants to continue these somewhat embarassing mistakes.

      • indipol says:

        It’s only been a few months and good staff on the Hill is really at a premium, especially now that the D’s control both chambers and the WH.  May seem surprising from here, but it really is hard to fill out a dynamite staff out there, especially for a freshman.  There are a lot of smart people running through the staffer corps, but just as many jackasses.  

        • sxp151 says:

          to believe Polis is blameless here?

          You’re placing all the blame on his staff, which seems like quite a leap. Ordinarily someone might ask for evidence for such an accusation. Do you have any?

          Or do you just find it hard to believe Polis might screw something up? If so, you might want to work on that.

          • indipol says:

            I wasn’t leaving Jared blameless, what I said was “get control over your staff.”  But why he signed on to the first letter?  Yes, I am sure that was a staff f-up, not a Jared f-up.  Hill offices get letters from other offices streaming through daily asking for a signature.  The Reps and Sens rarely — if ever — read them.  The decision to sign on to a letter is almost always a staff decision.

            But you’ll remember, Joan, it’s not like I supported Jared in the primary.  You need to chill.  

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