07/01/2010 05:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MoveOn, Netroots Fire Warning Shot over Net Neutrality

On Thursday, MoveOn and 34 progressive leaders and bloggers sent a letter to President Obama strongly urging him to keep his campaign promise to support Net Neutrality - the rule that prevents corporations from indiscriminately censoring or slowing Internet traffic.

Since Obama took office 18 months ago, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and congressional leaders have failed to take action on Net Neutrality, despite candidate Obama's promise "to take a back seat to no one" in protecting it. Worse, a federal court recently denied the FCC authority to regulate Internet service providers and enforce Net Neutrality.

In an act of stunningly poor political judgment, last week, Chairman Genachowski's chief of staff hosted closed-door meetings with industry lobbyists in an attempt to broker an industry-driven compromise. Congressional leaders are hosting other meetings, albeit with public interest representatives.

Watching the Obama administration is like watching crash test dummies repeatedly careen into the same wall as they side with industry - and against the public interest - on nearly every issue. Their K Street-friendly policies expose how bought and sold both major parties are, and all but guarantee huge losses for Democrats in November.

However, failing to make good on Net Neutrality could deliver the most devastating blow of all for Team Obama. Net Neutrality is a central concern of the netroots leaders that helped sweep them into office in 2008, and the White House will need them in November. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, Obama's job approval rating hovers below 50 percent, and his favorability rating has slipped from 65 percent to 56 percent in the past six months.

Signers to Thursday's letter include MoveOn, Daily KOS, FireDogLake, Democracy for America and other representatives of tens of millions of progressive activists. The letter reads, "there is much talk of 'compromise' on this crucial issue, and reports of backroom meetings between FCC officials and lobbyists to cut a deal that would jeopardize the open Internet. Giving up on your pledge to protect Net Neutrality would be a serious and possibly irreversible mistake."

Obama's sinking popularity coincides with near-daily revelations of the administration kowtowing to the largest industry lobbies on health care, environment, banking ... the list goes on. And the refusal of Obama's FCC chairman to firmly reassert his agency's authority over Internet service providers and to fulfill candidate Obama's pledge to protect Net Neutrality has clearly struck a nerve with netroots leaders who rely on an open, accessible Internet.

The Internet is the communications platform of the 21st century. If President Obama doesn't start treating it like the vital infrastructure that it is - and stop giving away the store to the mighty phone and cable lobbies - he'll lose his most strategically important constituency this November.

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