Reporters take notes during a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 19, 2012.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

GOP opposition to net neutrality takes farcical turn

Updated
During his tenure as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made few friends. Democrats found his partisan antics offensive; reporters found his habit of leaking deceptive information infuriating, even Republicans tired of Issa’s ineffectiveness.
 
When the gavel was passed to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), many hoped the transition would be for the better. Those hopes are being dashed.
 
Chaffetz and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), are predictably unhappy about the FCC’s newly announced support for net neutrality. But the far-right committee chairmen aren’t just upset about the policy; they’re alleging some kind of White House conspiracy.
Two congressional committees have launched investigations into whether the White House improperly influenced the net-neutrality proposal released last week by the head of the Federal Communications Commission. […]
 
Although the president nominates the chairman and other FCC commissioners, the agency is independent and not supposed to be subject to White House control. [FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler] is a former lobbyist for the cable-TV and wireless industries and was a major fundraiser for Obama, who nominated him to head the FCC in 2013. Republicans have charged that Obama unduly influenced Wheeler’s proposal.
Chaffetz and Johnson, the L.A. Times report noted, “cited a Wall Street Journal article last week that reported that two White House aides led a ‘secretive effort’ to build support from outside groups for tough net-neutrality regulations.”
 
Kevin Drum noted in response, “Chaffetz must really be desperate. Does he seriously think that the president of the United States isn’t allowed to try to mobilize outside support for his policy proposals? Or even that the White House isn’t allowed to lobby FCC commissioners? That’s just crackers.”
 
I heartily agree, though when it comes to Republican opposition to net neutrality, it’s arguably the second most bizarre story since the FCC’s big announcement.
 
My colleague Will Femia gave me a heads-up on this striking report, which may be hard to believe, but which is entirely legit.
A nameless entity with money to spare has created a truly bizarre attempt to discredit net neutrality with a porn parody.
 
The video, which has fairly strong production values, begins as a riff on the cliched porn plot of a sexy man coming to install cable at a sexy woman’s house. They’re quickly interrupted, though, by a series of government bureaucrats who begin monitoring her every online habit.
 
The porn parody, it turns out, is the least strange part of this tale – one that climbs to the upper echelons of the U.S. government.
Here’s the deal: a brand new group called Protect Internet Freedom sprung up to oppose net neutrality. How new? Its existence references the FCC announcement that was made six days ago, so it really hasn’t been around long.
 
But Protect Internet Freedom has nevertheless had time to put together a porn parody and made a series of odd allegations about net neutrality, including assertions that the policy may lead the government to monitor Americans’ online activities and slow download speeds. There’s no evidence to support any of the claims.
 
The story took an odd turn, however, when Daily Dot reported that the Protect Internet Freedom was created in part by Jordan Gehrke, a senior adviser to freshman Tea Party Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a staunch opponent of net neutrality. In other words, the organization is connected to Capitol Hill in a rather direct way.
 
As a substantive matter, the campaign to derail net neutrality is probably too late, but it doesn’t make the conservative efforts any less strange.
 

Net neutrality and Technology

GOP opposition to net neutrality takes farcical turn

Updated