In their second editorial in less than a month, the New York Times gets it right on Net Neutrality. They join the ranks of other major US dailies — including the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times and Houston Chronicle — that have come out in support of Internet freedom.
“The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass medium there has ever been,” writes Adam Cohen in today’s Times:
Freedom of the press, as the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one. Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions.
Cohen writes that the Web was invented using open, decentralized architecture in a way “that allowed anyone with a computer to connect to it and begin receiving and sending information.”
This network neutrality allows for the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce and communication. Cohen writes that the blogging phenomenon is possible because individuals can create Web sites that can be seen by anyone with Internet access. He adds:
The companies fighting net neutrality have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan “hands off the Internet,” that tries to look like a grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current form. What they actually favor is stopping the government from protecting the Internet, so they can get their own hands on it.
Today’s Times’ commentary echoes an earlier editorial, which stated that the democratic Internet “would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate.”
Cohen writes that Net Neutrality forces have been gaining strength:
One group, Savetheinternet.com, says it has collected more than 700,000 signatures on a petition. Last week, a bipartisan bill favoring net neutrality, sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, won a surprisingly lopsided vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Sir Tim [Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web] argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet’s extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.
“That’s not what we call Internet at all,” says Sir Tim. “That’s what we call cable TV.”
And that’s why the telcos and their front groups want to seize control of the Web — to net billions of dollars as the new video czars, at the expense of everyone else.