Friday, February 24, 2006

Network Neutrality: Dead on Arrival?

Your tax dollars at work
Network neutrality, a principle that ensures the free flow of ideas online, appears dead on arrival in Washington as big media once again wield influence over our elected politicians.

The numbers tell the story. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, AT&T and other telephone and cable companies are among the top contributors to the re-election campaigns of a number of house Telecommunications Subcommittee members, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who has received more than $12,000 from AT&T executives, employees and their family members. Comcast associates tipped in an additional $10,000 equaling Upton's contribution from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

And hands aren’t clean on the other side of the aisle either. AT&T, Comcast and NCTA have tipped more than $100,000 into the campaign war chests of Telecommunications Subcommittee Democrats as well.

The corporate largesse is paying dividends. Sources inside the House of Representatives revealed earlier this week that all language pertaining to network neutrality has been struck by subcommittee from the latest draft of the Telecom Act.

According to the National Journal, the Telecommunications Subcommittee is likely to drop all references after lawmakers failed to reach consensus on the issue. If the Journal report is correct, the DC bottleneck is the net result of the full-tilt lobbying by AT&T, Comcast, BellSouth and Verizon.

In addition to the money spent to fill campaign coffers, they have funneled tens of millions of dollars to lobbying efforts, industry friendly think tanks and political junkets, waving a strong hand over all sectors of the political process -- at the local, state and federal levels.

By lining their pockets with telco dollars, certain lawmakers have opted to turn their backs on network neutrality and abandoned their posts as guardians of our public commons. They've decided that committing a crime of omission is better than standing up to the corporate powers that be.

A Telecom Act without network neutrality would hasten the Internet's demise -- effectively ridding our online experience of the governing principle that until now fostered the free flow of ideas and made the Web a beacon for democratic ideas and business innovation.

A Telecom Act without an enforceable rulebook would leave this democratic medium to the whims of predatory telephone and cable companies. The stage is now set for these conglomerates to play gatekeepers to all online content and services -- turning our net freedoms into their net revenues.

If the nation's largest ISPs are allowed to discriminate against the flow of web traffic, The New York Times editorial board wrote on Sunday, "the Internet providers, rather than consumers, could become the driving force in how the Internet evolves."

The profit motive of a few corporations would supplant the freedoms of all users, determining which innovations end up shaping our digital future. The threat is real. These companies could block us from viewing a favorite podcast or blog, cut off net phones unless we use the company service, or force us to download MP3s from their company store while slowing access to other music sites.

AT&T, Bell South, Comcast and Verizon make massive campaign contributions. They're used to getting their way in the halls of Congress. And they don't want network neutrality to stop them from getting their way online.

Only a public outcry can restore this founding principle, before it becomes a footnote in the history of the Internet’s fall.

It's time Americans who feel strongly about an open and free Internet told our elected representatives to reverse course. Net neutrality is an issue where the public's interest cannot be outflanked by massive telcos and their well-oiled politicians.


mehoffer said...

Why haven't I yet seen anyone posit the fact that the same Cable/Telco firms that want to now tier they're i-net offerings, on the premise that the 'pipes' are 'their private property' are the same ones that owe that ability to finance the construction of those 'pipes' in the first place to the People at large, through the Government granted geographic monopolies they received at the jump?

These corpo's relied on the fact of these monopolies handed to them "for the Public Good" to be able to raise the Cash/Credit necessary to be able to build this infrastructure in the first place...

That they now claim these networks to be their private property seems to me to abrogate the original conditions of those monopolies(franchises)....

OnShakedown said...

Nice post. I don't think enough people realize the "real-life" implications of not having an open internet.

Keep fighting for Justice.

JReid said...

Truly scary. Could it be more clear that we've traded in our democracy for a corporatocracy? The naked greed of these multinationals and their politician partners is astounding.

The real question is, can the American people do anything about it? The Washington politicians' corporate handlers operate the voting machines, too...

isen said...

This is exactly the reason why I am joining with to produce F2C: Freedom to Connect, the Internet Freedom Conference, April 3 & 4 in Washington DC. More details here.
If you register before midnight on Tuesday, 2/28 and use Priority Code FOBDL it'll cost $295 (compare $1195 day of conference).

If you care about Network Neutrality and other issues of Internet Freedom, you'll be there.

"We must hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Ben Franklin

See you at F2C!
David I

Weedgardener said...

A perfect example of why we need "Clean Money" publicly funded campaign finance to free politicians from the need to accept money that compromises their integrity in order to get elected. See Public Campaign for information on how Clean Money works, and is working at a statewide level, in Maine, Arizona and Connecticut. Then ask your congressperson to support HR 3099, the bill to enact Clean Money nationally.

Unknown said...

I certainly agree with you about the dangers we face in the USA when it comes to gathering information. We can't always trust what we read on the internet; but at least there are some trustworthy places to receive information.
You are entirely right about the whole "infotainment" game and with most of the US media centralized into just a few huge companies the time COULD come when we couldn't trust any of the information we receive through mass media.

Eco Child said...

Thanks for posting this. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who cares about this topic. This is way too important to ignore. What Big Media did to TV and radio (i.e. turned it into garbage), they will do to the Internet if we keep silent.

Unknown said...

Yeah, no doubt this is scary, Internet 2 will be the end of information, and the NWO trojan horse is fully in place ready to go, all it needs is for Americans to sit around and do nothing about what is going on today, we have the ability to hinder there plans, does anyone care anymore, or is it just the 'new norm' now. After all takes place those who survive will wish they had put effort forth, to change the seemingly unchangable. This is what they want us to think, "that nothing can be done". I will not take it laying down, neither should anyone else, rise, bear arms, there is a war for our hearts and minds, are they worth the struggle?

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