The Internet is Falling! The Internet is Falling!

There's just really very little in the way of actual evidence in Larry Downes' CNET op-ed today that claims that the Obama administration is "clearly backtracking" on a commitment to turning the principle of net neutrality into enforceable policy.

Downes' column is of a piece with a new talking point that has popped up in telecom quarters this past week. The Obama administration, the thinking goes, is guilty of sacrificing the practical wiring of America on the altar of its ideological commitment to a neutral Internet. So Downes' op-ed itself is not surprising. But I would have expected that he could have pulled together stronger evidence than the weak brew he's serving up here.

Exhibit #1 in Downes' piece is the fact that Susan Crawford left the White House economic council over a dispute with Larry Summers over neutrality. But Crawford, from everything I've heard, always intended to return to her job at Michigan Law School after a year in the White House -- which, if not the whole story, seriously undercuts the idea that her rotation out of the White House dictates that net neutrality regulation is doomed in Obama's Washington. Downes' second bit of evidence is that Deputy U.S. CTO Andrew McLaughlin has said that (1) American ISPs that filter content share values with the Chinese government and (2) the FCC's rule-making process on net neutrality rules is an on-going "dialogue." Point (1) would actually, in a world where logic reigned, point to an aggressively pro-neutrality Obama administration. Point (2), I don't even know what to do with.

Also missing from Downes' scary op-ed on the Obama Administration's commitment to net neutrality: any mention that one of Downes' recent clients at the consulting firm Bell Mason Group is AT&T -- one of neutrality regulation's strongest opponents.

--Nancy Scola

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