Not Exactly Web Neutral
By Al Diamon
Created Jun 20 2007 - 6:38am
The Associated Press ought to know better. The wire service's Augusta bureau chief, Glenn Adams, got snookered by the spinmeisters on June 12, when he filed a story claiming a bill passed by the Legislature "sets Maine ahead of other states in taking a stand for nondiscriminatory access to the Internet."
In fact, the measure approved that day gutted the so-called "net neutrality" legislation originally introduced by state Sen. Ethan Strimling of Portland. Strimling's proposal would have blocked broadband network operators from giving preferential treatment to some services on their systems by allowing them to move information more quickly, while slowing down other services that refused to pay for the premium access. What was finally approved was a bill, drafted and promoted by opponents of net neutrality, that called for a study of the issue by the state's public advocate.
As an experienced State House hand, Adams should have known that legislation calling for a study almost always means the issue is dead, but won't be buried until later, when no one's watching. But he played up the hype put out by proponents of neutrality, such as the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which claimed - according to his story - that the resolution would "establish the Internet as the free and open arena of democracy it was always intended to be."
In the version of the story that ran in the Lewiston Sun Journal, Adams made no mention of press releases from opponents of regulation, like the one issued June 7 by state Sen. Barry Hobbins, in which he charged that Strimling's bill would have made Maine the only state to regulate broadband networks in this way, while his substitute would assure "a competitive marketplace for technology companies."
Adams defended his reporting in a brief phone interview, saying, "The story was about supporters of the amendment," which was "accurately described." But if that's the case, shouldn't his reporting have included comments from Hobbins and his allies, the bill's actual authors? Adams said a later version did include quotes from "opponents." Which, in the case of the amended bill was not what Hobbins was.
Maybe, the AP needs improved access.