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Originally published April 8, 2011 at 3:23 PM | Page modified April 8, 2011 at 5:31 PM

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Ryan Blethen / Times editorial columnist

House GOP sides with 'haves' on net neutrality

In passing a resolution against modest regulation of the Internet, House Republicans sided with large service providers and against consumers, writes editorial page editor Ryan Blethen.

Times editorial page editor

Much of what ails this nation can be attributed to lackadaisical or nonexistent regulation.

Both political parties created a system where banks were allowed to grow beyond what was healthy for the economy, and the nation's media are controlled by a handful of conglomerates that have little interest in public service but a lot of interest in the bottom line.

The problem is compounded by the perverse influence of money, lobbyists and special-interest groups have on lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and state capitals.

Politicians could have done something to ensure banks were a reasonable size and acted responsibly. They could have enforced laws that kept media in the hands of many, and local. Lawmakers could also rein in lobbyists and blunt the power money has in the political system.

They could have but they did not, and they do not. Congress had a small chance at redemption, and failed. On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval regarding the Federal Communications Commission's net-neutrality rules. Net neutrality keeps service providers from discriminating against content or creating a tiered system where customers who pay more get better service. Those who cannot pay would be relegated to a slower Internet.

AT&T and Verizon, the big two service providers, have demonstrated that they prefer a world where the haves have speedy access and the have-nots are at a competitive disadvantage.

The act is largely symbolic because it is unlikely to pass in the U.S. Senate and President Obama has said he would veto the resolution.

None of that has deterred House Republicans who erroneously believe that modest government regulation of the Internet equates a government-controlled Internet. That is not what the FCC rules do. Far from it.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, showed some backbone by being one of only two Republicans to vote against the resolution.

The problem is not just the House Republicans. Obama has shown no leadership on an issue he campaigned for. His man at the FCC, Julius Genachowski, has been a colossal disappointment. The FCC chairman dithered away a Democratic-controlled Congress.

I am no fan of the FCC rules, which were passed late last year. The commission did not go far enough because it excluded wireless from net neutrality. As weak as the rules are it is still better than leaving regulations up to the corporations that control access.

The rules are also a starting point for stronger regulations. Both Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell have said they will work toward better regulation.

Inslee took to the floor of Congress Friday arguing against the resolution of disapproval. He said something that should resonate with the supposedly pro-business Republicans.

"This is not just a consumer issue. It is a business-development issue," Inslee said.

He is correct. Big businesses might not flinch at having to pay extra to have products or content in the fast lane. It will matter to and hurt small businesses and startups.

The gist of Republican opposition to any net-neutrality rules is the same opposition the party uses with bank and media regulation: Government should not get in the way of business. Not now, not ever.

Some good that has done the country.

Ryan Blethen's column appears on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is: rblethen@seattletimes.com

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