Reichert reverses position on net neutrality

Today, over 170 House Republicans sent FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a letter urging the Commmission not to proceed with plans to protect an open Internet by reclassifying broadband as a "telecommunications service" rather than as a radically deregulated "information service." All three Washington State GOP representatives signed the letter, including Congressman Dave Reichert, who previously voted in support of net neutrality rules, saying that the Internet "should be an equal place" for people and companies. Reichert has apparently reversed his earlier opinion, and now stands with GOP leadership in support of open Internet opponents (and Reichert donors) AT&T, and Comcast.

Reichert built his political success largely on his reputation as a conscience-driven independent thinker who is willing to take positions based on public benefit and the interests of his constituents rather than simply following the dictates of Republican party leadership. That reputation has often been contradicted by reality. Most recently, Seattle blog published a recording of Reichert addressing a local meeting of Republican precinct officers, cynically describing how his strategic votes on particular environmental issues served to "take [environmental groups] out of the game" in the politically divided 8th District.

Reichert's top 25 corporate donors include both AT&T and Comcast, and his signature on today's letter represents their interests rather than those of his constituents. Curiously, it may not reflect the opinions of his largest local corporate donors. These include Microsoft, which has supported net neutrality in the past (though recently has taken a more nuanced position), and Boeing, which came out strongly in favor of net neutrality at last month's Open Internet hearing in Seattle.

Here's Reichert's previous statement on net neutrality from a 2006 campaign debate, in response to a question from the Seattle Times' Ryan Blethen:

I also support net neutrality. [The Internet] should be an equal place where people to come, equal companies to come. It should be the choice of the people, when they Google, the biggest company doesn't come up, but the company that the people have chosen as the most important site pops up. That's why I supported, and voted for, net neutrality.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey