"I hope nobody's allergic to nuts, because we've got a big one here."
Indeed, we do.
A year after the Federal Communications Commission changed the definition of broadband Internet to include only faster speeds, Republicans in Congress are still mad about the decision.
Using the new broadband minimum speed of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload, the FCC'sannual review of deployment this month said that broadband isn't being offered to about 34 million Americans. ISPs immediately criticized that assessment; yesterday their friends in Congress piled on.
Six Republican Senators—Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)—outlined their concerns in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday. (The Hill reported on the letter andposted a copy.) "We are concerned that this arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark fails to accurately capture what most Americans consider broadband... Looking at the market for broadband applications, we are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25Mbps," the senators wrote. "Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video, and Amazon recommends a speed of 3.5Mbps. In addition, according to the FCC's own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase 25Mbps service choose not to."
The Republicans' argument seems to assume a household with just one Internet-connected device running a single application. When the FCC increased the definition of broadband from 4Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps, it said that families are using multiple devices simultaneously and that the older broadband standard was "inadequate for evaluating whether broadband capable of supporting today’s high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way.”
ISPs themselves admit as much in their marketing, Wheeler argued a year ago, pointing out that Verizon says 25Mbps speeds are "best for one to three devices at the same time, great for surfing, e-mail, online shopping and social networking, [and] streaming two HD videos simultaneously." Verizon's marketing pushed 50Mbps as the speeds families should get if they use three to five devices at the same time.
The Sanders campaign represents a revolution of rising expectations. In 2008, the last time Democrats held a contested primary, the prospect of simply taking back the presidency from Republican control was nearly enough to motivate the party’s vote. The potential to enact dramatic change was merely a bonus. After nearly two terms of power, with the prospect of Republican rule now merely hypothetical, Democrats want more.
The paradox is that the president’s ability to deliver more change is far more limited. The current occupant of the Oval Office and his successor will have a House of Representatives firmly under right-wing rule, making the prospects of important progressive legislation impossible. This hardly renders the presidency impotent, obviously. The end of Obama’s term has shown that a creative president can still drive some change.
But here is a second irony: Those areas in which a Democratic Executive branch has no power are those in which Sanders demands aggressive action, and the areas in which the Executive branch still has power now are precisely those in which Sanders has the least to say. The president retains full command of foreign affairs; can use executive authority to drive social policy change in areas like criminal justice and gender; and can, at least in theory, staff the judiciary. What the next president won’t accomplish is to increase taxes, expand social programs, or do anything to reduce inequality, given the House Republicans’ fanatically pro-inequality positions across the board. The next Democratic presidential term will be mostly defensive, a bulwark against the enactment of the radical Ryan plan. What little progress liberals can expect will be concentrated in the non-Sanders realm.
So even if you fervently endorse Sanders's policy vision (which, again for the sake of full candor, I do not), he has chosen an unusually poor time to make it the centerpiece of a presidential campaign. It can be rational for a party to move away from the center in order to set itself up for dramatic new policy changes; the risk the Republican Party accepted in 1980 when Ronald Reagan endorsed the radical new doctrine of supply-side economics allowed it to reshape the face of government. But it seems bizarre for Democrats to risk losing the presidency by embracing a politically radical doctrine that stands zero chance of enactment even if they win.