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Teamsters want Net neutrality laws, but of course it's not a partisan issue

Net neutrality seems dead in Congress, but Teamsters president Jim Hoffa (son of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa) is pressing politicians to enact such a law anyway.

I've always enjoyed hearing proponents of Net neutrality laws insist that it's not a partisan issue, a difficult enough task when there were party-line votes last year, with Democrats largely in favor of broad Internet regulations and Republicans largely against them.

Now the Teamsters, a union practically synonymous with the Democratic Party, has embraced the idea.

Here are some excerpts from a statement that Teamsters president Jim Hoffa (son of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa) sent out yesterday:

Decisions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Supreme Court in 2005 have put at risk the fundamental rights of open access on the Internet. These rule changes would allow a few media multinationals to control the speed at which information can be moved across the Internet, and ultimately control whose information is not moved at all.

Some believe these rules would foster increased investment in new technologies and create new jobs. I believe, however, that this is a very shortsighted view. For example, what would happen if these workers decided to fight for better working conditions? Would they be able to list their grievances on a web site?

Just this week, AT&T updated its terms for Internet service. The company will now suspend or cancel Internet service to anyone who speaks out against the company in any way.

When corporations control communications and the ability to appeal to the public for justice, workers will ultimately lose.

The bottom line is that charging some organizations more to ensure rapid delivery of their message is un-American and endangers every individual or group that would dare dissent from the corporate gatekeeper's point of view.

He's putting the weight of the Teamsters behind S.215, a bill that Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota introduced in January. It says, for instance, that broadband providers may not "impose a charge on the basis of the type of content, applications, or services made available via the Internet into the network of such broadband service provider."

Now, Hoffa and the Teamsters are right to point out that AT&T's terms of service are pretty repugnant. They say in part: "AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your service...for conduct that AT&T believes...tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."

But the irony is that my quick read of S.215, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act that Hoffa likes so much, says that it wouldn't even prohibit AT&T from using its current terms of service against its customers.

So what should be done? Well, last month I listed 10 reasons why Net neutrality laws are dead, at least for the foreseeable future. So much for Dorgan's legislation. As for AT&T, let's wait and see if they actually dare to enforce that onerous terms of service agreement after a week of stinging public criticism.