Net Neutrality Update: Are Inmates Running the Asylum?

Yes, it can get worse.

Two weeks ago, I told you how a small, ideologically rigid group was "swift boating" their fellow Democrats and sucking all of the oxygen out of meaningful tech policy solutions in Washington over an issue few Americans are even paying attention to.

The Obama Administration? They're staffed with "crash test dummies." Large unions? They're slaves beholden to "corporate masters."

Congressional Democrats, including large numbers of the Black and Hispanic Caucuses? They're "willing to sell out their president and their constituents."

Now they've added another Democratic scalp to their collection: Congressman Henry Waxman, one of the strongest supporters in Congress for labor and creators.

On September 30th, Multichannel News reported that Free Press was working furiously behind the scenes to kill Congressman Waxman's net neutrality legislation. According to the story, Free Press president Josh Silver warned the Open Internet Coalition in an email that if it supported Waxman, Free Press would pull out of the group.

Flash forward to last week when Free Press campaign director Tim Karr claimed with stratospheric chutzpah that Congressman Waxman was trying to "craft a bipartisan compromise on Net Neutrality only to have his bill deep-sixed by hostile Republicans."

I'd like to say I'm surprised, but unfortunately I'm not. After all, this is an organization that calls itself "Free Press" while advocating turning over the power to censor the Internet to the FCC.

This is an organization that wants to discriminate against copyright owner's rights to set up premium content delivery channels that will give consumers faster, safer, and better legal content to help fight piracy. They insist that we continue to have to compete on a 'level playing field' with sites like Pirate Bay who steal our work and give it away.

They talk only about a "free and open" Internet but never about a "just and fair" Internet.

Sure, radical interests on the right (like the Tea Party) helped kill Waxman's legislation by pressuring Republicans. But as Multichannel News and others make abundantly clear, radical interests on the left were just as responsible.

You see, consensus and compromise to foster an Internet environment that's fast and fair for everyone -- even when you've got staunch progressives like Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Public Knowledge at the table - isn't acceptable to the Free Pressers. For them, net neutrality is all about the politics.

But while Free Press and the Tea Party don't get it, Congressman Waxman does: After thanking CFA, Consumers Union, and Public Knowledge for their "steadfast advocacy on behalf of consumers" (note Free Press was conspicuously not mentioned), Waxman went on to lament that "this development is a loss for consumers and a gain only for the extremes."

As in... The Tea Party and Free Press perhaps? Tea Partiers boycotted and Free Press launched its own behind-the-scenes fusillade against the Chairman's bill.

The result: Waxman has shelved what would have been a clear-cut victory for progressives and for the Obama Administration.

It also would have been a victory for the overwhelmingly Democratic constituency I represent: Songwriters and recording artists trying to make a living through online retail.

Thank you, Tea Party. But special thanks to Free Press. You both scored your political points and further reinforced why voters are so disgusted with politics.

Two weeks ago, I thought progressives, unions, the Obama Administration and Congress had found the light at the end of the tunnel, given Democrats a slam dunk opportunity to declare victory, and allowed us to move forward to focus on jobs and the economy. I was wrong. Today, the Waxman effort lies in tatters and we're right back where we started.

You see, for extremists on both side of the political fence it's not actually about ever accomplishing anything or solving problems. It's all about politics and that means no issues are ever resolved. The proof: Free Press' shockingly cynical attempt to place all of the blame on fringe right wingers, when they were working just as furiously behind the scenes to kill the Waxman legislation themselves.

I never thought I'd see the day when Free Press would ally with the Tea Party to kill legislation from one of Congress' most respected Democrats, but that's exactly what happened. Reasonable compromise solutions were hijacked by the fringes of both parties. It's terrible for the American creative community, it's terrible for the country, it's terrible for Democrats - but I'm sure it's great for Free Press' fundraising.