The House Democrats’ $825 billion legislation released on Thursday was supposedly intended to “stimulate” the economy. Backers claimed that speedy approval was vital because the nation is in “a crisis not seen since the Great Depression” and “the economy is shutting down.”
That’s the rhetoric. But in reality, Democrats are using the 258-page legislation to sneak Net neutrality rules in through the back door.
The so-called stimulus package hands out billions of dollars in grants for broadband and wireless development, primarily in what are called “unserved” and “underserved” areas. The U.S. Department of Commerce is charged with writing checks-with-many-zeros-on-them to eligible recipients, including telecommunications companies, local and state governments, and even construction companies and other businesses that might be interested.
The catch is that the federal largesse comes with Net neutrality strings attached. The Commerce Department must ensure that the recipients “adhere to” the Federal Communications Commission’s 2005 broadband policy statement (PDF)–which the FCC said at the time was advisory and “not enforceable,” and has become the subject of a lawsuit before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.