Sen. Al Franken Doesn't Understand Wireless Networks...or the First Amendment


Posted by Kelly William Cobb on Friday, August 20th, 2010, 10:58 AM PERMALINK

Yesterday, Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent an email to supporters chastising a consensus proposal on Internet regulations released by Google and Verizon. The email read:

The Google-Verizon "framework" was written so as not to apply to wireless Internet services. If you use wi-fi or access the Internet on your phone, this is a serious problem. Their framework could even allow for corporations to pay for premium access to the "wireline" Internet.

The Google-Verizon proposal does differentiate between wireless (e.g., cell phones) and wireline (e.g., cable, fiber, and wi-fi networks that broadcast wireline into a local area, like your home or office).  But here, Sen. Franken confuses the two, thinking that wi-fi networks operate off cellular broadband networks.  So, it appears that one of the very few Members of Congress pushing for overly burdensome Internet regulations lacks a rudimentary understanding of how networks even work.

This is the same Sen. Franken that claimed at the progressive Netroots Nation conference that “Net Neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time.”  In Franken’s absurd hypothetical world, without heavy regulations on the Internet, service providers will diminish your Internet speed or access to certain websites.  Never mind that the goal of business is to retain and grow a customer base, not hand consumers a reason to switch companies by offering a less desirable service.  Baseless and non-existent threats to consumers are never a justification for excessive and onerous regulations.

In fact, Sen. Franken is closely tied with the group Free Press, which has been one of the leading voices for Internet regulations and curbing speech.  Franken’s email cited above was sent to tout his attendance at an event hosted by Free Press, along with far left FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn.

What is quickly becoming the First Amendment of our time is the way the FCC, Sen. Franken, and Free Press want to regulate the Internet.  Free Press, who all but hands FCC Chairman Genachowski his marching orders, has pushed for an incredibly ambiguous regulatory regime for the Internet, possibly one that could regulate speech.  Free Press has already called for the FCC to monitor online speech.  They also say that the businesses most impacted by Internet regulation shouldn’t be able to meet with the FCC (see First Amendment right “to petition government”).  And while they are busy bashing the right to free speech, they have created a new “right” to Internet access out of thin air.

Rights exist to protect the American people from government and regulations like the ones Al Franken demands.  Once the Senator from Minnesota learns what rights are, or stops affiliating with groups that don’t believe in the First Amendment, we’ll give him a crash course on what a Wi-Fi network is.

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