Democrats, Telecoms Sidle Closer Together

    Democratic convention committee names Level 3 and AT&T as service providers. The telecommunications companies slipped briefly back into the Democratic National Convention news this week as Level 3 Communications announced it had been selected as the “official live video and content delivery services provider” for the meeting, scheduled for Aug. 25-28 in Denver. AT&T was also officially named the wireless provider.

    Qwest has already been named the official telecom provider. Qwest has donated $6 million to the convention and Level 3 $1 million.

    According to a Level 3 release:

    “As the Official Live Video and Content Delivery Services Provider, Level 3 will deliver live analog and High-Definition (HD) video broadcast services from the Pepsi Center, site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  In addition, the DNCC will use Level 3’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) to provide online video downloading and live streaming of the Convention.”

    The events may mark the continued coalescence of the large telecoms and the Democratic Party in an uneasy alliance. With a battle brewing in Congress this year over internet neutrality, the telecoms have moved into closer range of some Democratic targets.

    So far in Colorado, at least, most Democratic representatives are staying firmly in favor of net neutrality. Net neutrality is a shorthand term referring to regulations that were in place prior to the summer of 2005 that prevented owners of the physical “backbone” of the communications structure from discriminating in disseminating content. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) plans to introduce legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives early this year that will legislatively reinstate net neutrality protections.

    Some people call this consumer protection; others call it unnecessary regulation.

    In general Democrats have supported network neutrality legislation and Republicans opposed it, but there is considerable crossover. Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over much of the net neutrality legislation, was an early opponent of net neutrality rules, but has since changed her position to support them.

    Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., voted for the Markey legislation in the last Congress. His office says that he maintains his pro-regulation position.

    Rep.  Johns Salazar, D-Colo., said in a statement:

    “The internet has become a central part of people’s lives and is essential to small communities around the country.  Given the unique role that the Internet plays in our daily lives, as well as the limited number of broadband providers in most areas of Colorado, it would be unfair to allow telecommunications companies to provide preferential service that only large content providers can afford.  Therefore I believe the Internet should remain protected and open and I will support policies that will keep the Internet accessible and affordable to all Americans – not just to the wealthiest corporations or citizens.”

    The telecoms have many issues they’re interested in, not just net neutrality. But their campaign contributions in Colorado and nationally have shifted to reflect the importance of the Democratic majority on these issues.

    Over the last three election cycles (2004, 2006 and 2008):