Who says Net neutrality is a partisan issue?

Well, everyone who knows what the issue is about, I would suggest.

And the lefties are crowing about it again today, with word that a blogger has helped secure statements of support for Net neutrality from each of the 13 Democrats challenging an incumbent Republican for a Senate seat this fall.

Matt Stoller, who blogs on the site OpenLeft.com, said he began his effort in mid-June. The goal was to elicit a policy statement from each of the Democratic challengers in support of Net neutrality, and today, he announced that he had succeeded. They’re all on board, at least the 13 with at least $500,000 in their war chest.

Throughout the process, Stoller has kept a running tally of how much money each of the candidates has accepted in the form of campaign contributions from the cable and telecom industries.

Not surprisingly, a zero sits next to most of the candidates’ names.

If Net neutrality is up your alley, Stoller is fighting the good fight. Grass-roots and all, it’s a perfect match for the rhetoric of the larger groups that have been agitating for a “free and open” Internet that will keep the playing field level for all parties, large and small. What a story it would be for the lowliest blogger slay the two-headed lobbying dragon of the cable and phone companies.

Stoller’s campaign drew predictable praise from some of the larger groups that have been championing the issue, such as Free Press and MoveOn.org.

To proponents of congressional action on the issue, a handful of Democrats announcing support is swell, but they are a long way from carrying the day on the floor of Congress.

Previous attempts at Net neutrality legislation have fallen well short of the mark, with votes falling largely on party lines. At present, there is one bill that takes up the issue in the Senate, and two in the House. None is likely to see any significant movement before the election-shortened session ends.

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to take up the issue in an official manner next Friday, when it meets to consider a draft order introduced by Republican Chairman Kevin Martin calling for a censure of Comcast for blocking traffic to the peer-to-peer sit BitTorrent. If the two Democratic commissioners side with Martin, as is expected, the order will have a majority, and the FCC will have taken its toughest stand to date on Net neutrality. Martin’s not looking to slap any fines on Comcast; instead it would impose some onerous reporting and monitoring requirements that the cable giant would no doubt abhor.

Should that come to pass, Free Press *et al* will no doubt declare another victory. But that victory will be a battle, not a war. Even with the expected gains the Democrats will make in the legislature in November, some folks are going to have to cross the aisle if anything’s going to happen with this issue.

It’s a little curious to me how an issue that draws support from a set of groups as diverse as the Writers’ Guild and the Christian Coalition could remain so narrowly partisan.

An aide to Maine’s Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican sponsor of the Senate’s Net neutrality bill, once told me, “It’s a shame it’s got to be such a partisan issue. It’s too bad, but that’s just the way it is.”

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