Something that happened more than a year ago but seemed like boring news at the time has now come back to haunt us.
On May 1, 2013, Obama named Tom Wheeler as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
As it turns out, Wheeler was a big lobbyist for the very companies he’s now in charge of regulating. He was also a big spender in the Obama campaigns, tossing in something like a million dollars between the 2008 and ’12 runs. That in itself isn’t such a big deal. Presidents regularly appoint people who’ve been their biggest supporters.
“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”
Hip. Oh. Crit.
But again, this was a year ago, and it happens all the time. Why bellyache about it now?
If you’re not caught up on Net Neutrality, the best explanation I’ve seen is from comedian John Oliver (some mild language). To emphasize how much I liked his explanation: I almost never watch any video on the internet, of any kind, even those I’ve recorded myself. And I watched all 13 minutes of this one.
It’s gotten dirty too, with giant lobbyist firms creating fake “grass roots” campaigns that pretend the U.S.’s broadband internet is “great” — when in reality it’s ranked worse than countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay.
To cut this short though, here’s why Obama’s pick (Wheeler) rings so hollow here. In this fight, the cable companies and other internet providers are the big players, the ones who stand to gain the most (and already do) — and the person in charge of the regulations is their best friend — while the customer is nearly helpless.
If you think your internet is expensive, slow, and frustrating now, it’s trying to get worse.