Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Real Grassroots Look Like supporters are flexing their grassroots muscle once again, drumming up even broader support for Net Neutrality during 42 "in-district" meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

The meetings -- held over the past 60 days in offices from Shoreline, Wash., to Palm Harbor, Fla., from Providence, R.I., to Bakersfield, Calif. -- involved hundreds of activists who urged their elected representatives and senators to support Net Neutrality in the 110th Congress. As a result several members pledged to support Net Neutrality legislation when it came to a vote in Congress.

Here are reports from activists in the field:

Rep. Phil Hare (D-Illinois) In District

Rep. Hare Gets Behind Markey's Bill

Margaret Thomas a teacher from Rock Island, Illinois joined eight others to meet with Rep. Hare on April 14. "Phil was interested in the information we gave him and in our individual experiences which led to our being involved in this issue. He said that he would get in touch with Congressman Markey and support the legislation that will be introduced to guarantee net neutrality."

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.)

David Kaufer the founder and CEO of the Web-based start-up urged Rep. Jay Inslee (D -Wash.) "to be a strong and vocal leader." Inslee introduced Net Neutrality legislation in the House last year. He remains committed to supporting the principle, according to staffer Adam Bartz, who met with supporters at Inslee's Shoreline office.

Andrew Pedersen, an independent recording artist, producer and distributor from Bellevue told a staffer from Rep. Inslee's office that Internet radio is essential to the marketing of independent artists across the globe. Pedersen depends on Web sales for 100 percent of his revenues. "Without Net Neutrality, these stations would not be able to afford the increased bandwidth operating costs, and I might not be able to afford my Web presence."

Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) In District with Rep. Wilson: A Strong Supporter

"Rep. Heather Wilson concluded our meeting by saying she would definitely look into the possibility of co-sponsoring the Markey [Net Neutrality] bill," reported Gary Maricle an Albuquerque-based small business owner whose business consists of 20 Web sites that sell New Mexico chiles. "She also stated she wanted to look into whatever proposals there might be on the Senate side, too."

Along with five other Net Neutrality supporters from Wilson's district, Maricle handed the congresswoman a handwritten note from Gov. Bill Richardson's IT Commission Chairman urging her continued support of Net Neutrality. "I believe she was duly impressed," Maricle wrote.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) In District

Rep. Yarmuth: Voting in the public interest

Mark McKinley a low power radio activist in Louisville met on April 5 with Rep. Yarmuth. McKinley reports that his group gave Yarmuth a pro-business perspective on Net Neutrality. "Rep. Yarmuth seemed genuine in wanting to follow-up to learn more," he writes. "We had the opportunity to get John's read on this, and, after hearing from us, I feel he's better prepared to cast his vote in the public's interest. It matters."

Rep. Henry Johnson's (D-Ga.)

Candace Apple a businesswoman from Atlanta met with Johnson's Special Assistant Carole Mumford on March 7. "We discussed free speech issues and the danger of losing internet neutrality," she reports. "As a small business owner I discussed my concerned about the impact on the vitality of small business in America if the internet were no longer a level playing field." Mumford told Apple and other activists that she had watched the video and will alert Rep. Johnson to support the issue.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)

Musician Daniel Krimm from Menlo Park joined a group of six others in a meeting at the office of Net Neutrality supporter Rep. Anna Eshoo.

"I mentioned that Eshoo herself and other elected officials have a strong interest in protecting their own access to their constituents as the Internet continues to increase the availability of tools to reach constituents outside," he reported after the meeting. "We made a lot of points about common carriage, the increasing status of the Internet as an essential public utility (as various different media increasingly converge on this platform), and the need to protect market competition in the information market generally."

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) In District

Sen. Cantwell's office a 'cheerleader' for Neutrality

William Purdy of Bainbridge Island met with Cantwell's outreach director Shakti Hawkins on March 7. "Because of Cantwell's background in high tech, she has a particular interest in Net Neutrality, he writes about the meeting. "She will be a cheerleader." Cantwell is among the strong supporters of Senator Byron Dorgan's bill (S.215). "The politicians who will oppose this should be made to understand that Net Neutrality is pro-business, pro-entrepreneur, pro-free market," Purdy reports. "Those are things they understand and respond to."

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana)

Ross Rannells an internet software developer and instructor from Mishawaka, Indiana met on March 25 with Rep. Donnelly. "He promised to vote in support of Net Neutrality, Rannells writes. "Other supporters [at the meeting] put a human face on the issue and were able to convince him that the issue had a significant effect on the lives of his constituents." Joseph Jackmovich who was also at the Donnelly meeting reports that the representative "went so far as to promise to not let Net Neutrality die."

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) In District

Rep. Courtney Pledges Support for Net Neutrality

Freshman Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) pledged his support and promised to work with Markey's office on legislation, according to John Smith, a member of the Suffield Board of Selectmen.

"I do believe that he now understands the issue, and I believe that because of our meeting he is better informed," reported insurance agent Jeff Melhorn who joined up with Smith and four others to meet with Rep. Courtney. "I recommend that if you like your Internet the way it is, please take an hour out of the day and see your congressman. It is worth it."

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.)

Deborah Pearson from Cumming, Ga., met with Rep. Nathan Deal on Feb. 20. Mr. Deal "seemed very interested and concerned that his constituency would be adversely affected by any changes in the Internet," she reported. "I believe Mr. Deal appreciated that I took the time to see him."

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)

David Wass of Santa Barbara, California led a group of activists in a meeting on April 5 with Rep. Capps. "Lois said she would support Rep. Ed Markey's bill due to come out later this year," he writes. "All of those present were able to converse quite eloquently with the Congresswoman on the issue."

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.)

"Overall very encouraging," reported Web developer Giles Hendrix about his meeting with the chief of staff from Rep. Yvette Clarke's Brooklyn office. "We each gave our specific cases, and by the end of the meeting he was explaining the issue to us."

"He listened, asked good questions, and gave everyone time to air out on the issue," wrote Brian Donohue of the Daily rEvolution Weblog. "He specifically asked that he be notified when the Markey legislation is ready to hit the floor."

Rep. David Davis (R-Tenn.)

"He was not previously aware of the Net Neutrality issue," said Carolyn Rice Dean, a small business owner from Morristown, Tenn., after her meeting with Rep. David Davis (R-Tenn.). In District

Rep. Davis Tells Carolyn He's Concerned about Threat to Small Businesses

"He seemed genuinely interested and asked me to keep his office informed as to what bills and when as that info becomes available," she added. "That is when he told me he was a small business owner, too, and he completely understood."

Rep. Davis later mentioned the meeting during a hearing of the House Committee on Small Business. Davis said that small companies in his district had expressed fears they might go under if stuck with either stiff access fees or slower Internet access. "Help me understand [Net Neutrality]," said the congressman, "so I can explain it to my constituents."

Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kansas)

Kevin Siek of Topeka Kansas met on April 4 with staff from of Rep. Boyda's office. "From the conversation I would say that Boyda is at least leaning our way on Net Neutrality… I'm sure if enough of her constituents urge her to support Net Neutrality she will eventually get religion."

"Net Neutrality allows me to help grassroots organizations to organize for a variety of issues from local elections to global warming," wrote Christopher Renner of Manhattan, Kansas who also attended the meeting. "Without equal access to the Internet such fundamental democratic processes would not longer help candidates like Rep. Boyda get elected."

Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

John Thrasher, a former entertainment retail executive from Bakersfield, told a staffer from Rep. Kevin McCarthy's office that the Net Neutrality issue "cuts across party lines and should be viewed in the interests of trying to see that competition fairness is essential on the Internet."

"Here's hoping for continued progress," he added.

Rep. Chris Carney's (D-Pa.)

On April 5, Donald Noll of Jermyn Pennsylvania joined other Net Neutrality supporters in a lively discussion with Rep. Carney's top aide before speaking with Carney himself. "The aide was very familiar with the issues and I believe we have allies here but we reminded him that we would be watching this issue closely and intended to follow up," Noll reports.

Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Missouri) In District at Sen McCaskill's office

JoAnn Witt of Kansas City, Missouri met with Sen. McCaskill's deputy regional director, Kimiko Gilmore on April 10. "We, all, had special examples of how we would be affected by a loss of Neutrality," she writes. I made sure that she saw that companies would cause us all kinds of problems without a law prohibiting them from doing so."

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)

An aide to Rep. Welch told Net Neutrality supporters that he was upset that there was so much bickering among members of Congress over this issue. "I said when huge amounts of money are on the table that table manners tend to go the way of all flesh," said John Bloch, president of Onion River Community Access Media. Welch has come out in support of Net Neutrality.

Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.)

Branch Heller of Wilmington led a group of Net Neutrality supporters to meet with Brian J. Bushweller, the state director for Senator Carper. "We informed Brian that we wanted Senator Carper to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Dorgan-Snowe bill (S.215)," Heller reports.

"Mainly we presented two aspects: small business' lack of ability to stay competitive, and the benefit to the public of having the freedom of unfettered access to information," reports Marilyn Green, who attended the meeting with Heller. "That's it in a nutshell."

Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.)

John Hoke a publisher from Oklahoma City met with Rep. Fallin's aide Denise Northrup. "We are a small family business and we would run the risk of being shut out, or at best, paying for Web recognition," Hoke reports. "[Northrup] was very receptive and said she would take the issue to Rep. Fallin. I think we had a positive impact with each of us offering a different but effective perspective."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Joshua Fidel a systems administrator from Medina, Ohio led a group in an April 12 meeting with Senator Sherrod Browns (D-Ohio) deputy director, Beth Thames. "As a System Administration Manager, it's incredibly important to me that no traffic shaping is allowed to take place," Fidel reports. Fidel told the staffer that a world without Net Neutrality would "hurt Internet businesses of all sizes … and create a significant barrier to entry."

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

"We had a very productive meeting. Everyone worked well together and several of us will continue to work together in the future," wrote technology instructor Andrea Miller of her meeting with representatives of Sen. Jim Webb's Richmond office.

Miller continues:

"I explained how both large and small companies would be affected. Brian and Scott both spoke about what would change in large organizations and about the fact that the telcos are already making millions of dollars for their services. Ken explained how smaller businesses would be impacted (and how some would be eliminated). Catherine spoke to how former foster care children and current foster parents would lose group support and informational assets. Tom Wolfe explained that his law firm would certainly be able to pay whatever additional costs might be exacted, but that many of his clients would not fare so well."

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) In District

Rep. Murphy: Fighting corporate abuse

Michael Glenn of West Simsbury, Connecticut met on March 24 with Rep. Murphy. Murphy told Glenn and other activists that one of the main reasons he ran for Congress was to keep in check corporate abuses. "He told us he had a meeting scheduled with telecom lobbyists and he would let us know how those encounters go." Stay tuned.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

Mark Page, a retired engineer from Little Compton, R.I., spent about two hours in Senator Whitehhouse's Providence office talking about Net Neutrality with the senator's state director, George Carvalho. "He came out of the meeting with a good basic understanding of what Net Neutrality is and how it affects every aspect of Internet freedom for the person on the street and as business owners."

Page continues:

"Mr. Carvalho learned what we wanted him to learn. There was no hesitation on the issues, everyone made their presentations with conviction. There was no doubt that the people at that meeting really cared about this issue and that it bothered some and really pissed off others. … I told Mr. Carvalho, don't let the senator not know about this issue. When this bill comes up, make sure he goes up on the Hill and votes against letting the big telecom’s take over the Internet."

Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.)

"We had a reasonable assurance from the aide that Congressman Kagen would vote on the right side of the issue," reports Lon C Ponschock of Appleton, Wisconsin, who joined other activists at an April 18 meeting with Kagen's office. "I'm glad I went and I thank you and Free Press and for doing this important work," writes Lon. In District

Rep. Pallone Hears from His Constituents

Other Recent Meetings:

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) on February 23

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) on February 27

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) on February 22

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on February 23

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on February 23

Rep. Henry Johnson (D-Ga.) on March 7

Rep. Jane Harman (D- Calif.) on 30-March

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) on April 3 In District

Rep. Gonzales With Neutrality Supporters

Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) on April 3

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois) on April 4

Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) on April 5

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Arizona) on April 11

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) on April 12

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) on April 12

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on April 13

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) on April 13

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) on April 16

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