Last night's House vote against an amendment that would make Net Neutrality enforceable is the result of swarming lobbyists and a multi-million-dollar media campaign by telephone companies that want Congress to hand them control of the Internet.
The fight now moves to the Senate, where there is stronger bi-partisan support for a bill -- put forth by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) -- that would protect our Internet freedom from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.
Here are some comments from SavetheInternet.com Coalition members.
Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst of the Consumers Union:
Special interest advocates from telephone and cable companies have flooded the Congress with misinformation delivered by an army of lobbyists to undermine decades-long federal practice of prohibiting network owners from discriminating against competitors to shut out competition. Unless the Senate steps in, today's vote marks the beginning of the end of the Internet as an engine of new competition, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Ben Scott, policty director of Free Press:
The American public favors an open and neutral Internet and does not want gatekeepers taxing innovation and throttling the free market. The House has seriously undermined access to information and democratic communication. Despite the revisionist history propagated by the telcos and their lobbyists, until last year, the Internet had always been a neutral network. It is the central reason for its overwhelming success. This issue is not about whether or not the government will regulate the Internet. It's about whether consumers or cable and phone companies will decide what services and content are available on the Net.
Mark Cooper, director of research at Consumers Federation of America:
This is not Google vs. AT&T. CFA has been battling to keep the phone companies from putting tollbooths on the Internet since the early 1980's, but now every business and every consumer that uses the Internet has a dog in the fight for Internet Freedom. This coalition will continue to grow, millions of Americans will add their voices, and Congress will not escape the roar of public opinion until Congress passes enforceable net neutrality.
Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge:
The House has rushed to pass HR 5252 at the urging of the telephone and cable companies, who feared the growing public support for an enforceable net neutrality law.... Today’s Internet, which gives consumers control over what applications, services and content they want to access, will be replaced by an Internet that looks like a cable system -- where network providers determine who gets on and at what price.
Our grass-roots coalition includes more than 720 groups, 5,000 bloggers and 800,000 individuals who have rallied in support of net neutrality at www.savetheinternet.com. The coalition is left and right, public and private, commercial and noncommercial.
Supporters of net neutrality include the Christian Coalition of America, MoveOn.org, National Religious Broadcasters, the Service Employees International Union, the American Library Association, AARP, ACLU, and every major consumer group in the nation. It includes the founders of the Internet and hundreds of companies that do business online.
The battle for Net Neutrality - or Internet freedom - has significantly stronger bipartisan support in the Senate. Senators Snowe (R-Maine) and Dorgan (D-N.D.) have introduced the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2006" that enjoys the strong support from the SaveTheInternet coalition.
Bi-partisanship will carry the day. A bi-partisan Net Neutrality bill in the House Judiciary won handily only two weeks ago. As we look to the Senate, our prospects are strong.
Senators can expect to hear from their constituents on their responsibility to protect Net Neutrality and we will be watching closely to make sure they listen.