news commentary
May 12, 2006




Rep. Bobby Rush and privatization of the Internet
by Bruce Dixon

While the Chicago Sun-Times alleged in its April 25 front-page story that a not-for-profit organization headed by Chicago’s Congressman Bobby Rush accepted a million dollar donation from a subsidiary of AT&T, its follow-up has been strangely limited to the congressman’s alleged ethical violation alone. With the exception of a single tech column buried deep in the paper later that week, one can search the corporate media in vain for any clue as to what the telco monopolies intend to get for their money. In most places where it’s illegal to accept a bribe, it’s equally unlawful to offer one. The U.S. seems not to be one of those places, especially when corporations are doing the bribing.

Rush’s horrendous legislation invalidates thousands of agreements between local communities and cable monopolies that force cable providers to service minority communities and give air time to educational and public affairs programming. Even worse, Rush’s COPE Act would literally “…end the Internet as we know it” and leave it up to AT&T, Verizon and other ISPs and owners of the Internet backbone to determine what content users will be allowed to access and, regarding email, which subjects will be permitted to reach its destination.

While a majority of Democrats on the relevant subcommittee voted to maintain an open Internet, two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus — Rep. Al Wynn of PG County MD, the DLC point man inside the caucus, and Ed Towns of Brooklyn — also cast votes to deprive minority areas of cable service and turn the Internet into a toll road.

In a transparently deceitful effort to frustrate and limit public comment, the COPE Act, which has been the subject of two hearings, and has been voted out of subcommittee and full committee, and which now awaits a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. has never been assigned the customary bill number. It is still officially known as *HR__. Lobbyists and bought congressmen know very well that citizens who call their representatives’ offices to register objections to pending legislation are routinely asked for the bill number, and when they are unable to provide one their objections are likely to go uncounted.

The fact that Black Commentator and other online sources like FreePress.Net, MyDD, TPM Cafe and remain at this late date the only places the public can find information about the pending attempt to hijack and privatize the Internet is an indication of both how serious the threat is, and of how united the corporate print and broadcast media are in their solidarity with the hijackers. They may be willing to throw Bobby Rush to the wolves. But they intend for the hijacking to proceed.

The clear intent of the telco monopolies is to rush this legislation into law before the House of Representatives goes on its summer recess. As was the case with the FCC ruling on media consolidation in the summer of 2003, the corporate media intend not to cover the story at all. They can still be stopped. Here is what you can do:

1. You can visit relevant links, including, to familiarize yourself with how the corporate hijack of your rights to Internet and cable service is being conducted.

2. You can email your representatives in Congress and the US Senate, which must also consider the legislation, through the web site of Phone calls to representatives are fine too, but you will be asked for a bill number and there isn’t any.

Finally, you can email or call your local news outlet and ask why the story isn’t worth covering. As if you didn’t already know the answer.

*After the initial posting of this article, the COPE Act, also called the Rush-Barton Act, was then assigned as HR 5252.

This article first appeared in The Black Commentator,


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