Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Representative Calls for Action Before Bells Discriminate

Rep. Capps
Congresswomen Lois Capps of California today called upon Congress to save Net Neutrality before, not after, the phone and cable companies fundamentally change the nature of the Internet.

In an op-ed printed in The Hill, Representative Capps wrote that Congress "shouldn’t just sit by and watch network neutrality and the vibrancy of the Internet slip away." Capps doubts the commitments of companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and BellSouth to protect consumer choice, open competition and innovation on the Internet.

These companies' frequently argue that Net Neutrality rules are a solution in search of a problem. "But the phone companies have made clear their desire to use their critical position in the network to impose new fees and barriers to entry on the Internet," Capps writes. "Do we really want to wait until the vibrancy of the Internet has been muzzled and then hope that future Congresses will muster the courage to restore non-discrimination to the Internet? I, for one, am not willing to take that chance."

Capps adds:

"Network neutrality serves as the Internet’s nondiscrimination policy and is similar to policies that ensure large phone companies like Verizon and BellSouth have to connect calls from Sprint or T-Mobile with the same speed and accuracy that they would for their own calls. Since its inception, this powerful medium has flourished as an engine for economic growth and political activism under the rules of equal access to the Internet."

In 2005 the FCC relaxed protections that ensured nondiscrimination in Web access. Shortly after the FCC ruling, the nation's largest phone companies announced their intentions to impose a tiered program, charging a new level of fees to put high-speed content on the Internet.

"That means the phone and cable companies will decide the speed at which different bits of data can move across the network, in essence creating 'fast lanes' and 'slow lanes' for the Internet," Capps writes. "That would segregate Internet traffic based on who can pay by forcing companies and individuals to pay a premium for their websites to be in the fast lane while relegating those without deep pockets to the slow lanes."

Companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have publicly committed to Net Neutrality principles stating that it "makes no sense" to degrade or block Internet services. The free market would not allow it; we would lose customers, they claim, conveniently ignoring the fact that most U.S. broadband customers have nowhere else to go.

Meanwhile, they spend millions lobbying Congress against any meaningful legislation to protect Net Neutrality. AT&T and BellSouth, have even expressed their intent to discriminate against content by erecting new tolls on the exits and onramps to the Internet.

This is typical telco doublespeak. They extend promises to not block or degrade customer access to sites while also talking about charging content providers in a way that would allow them to do exactly that.

This discrimination defies the Internet’s stunning evolution toward an end-to-end system, where control resides not with middlemen but with those of us who go online. Under this revolutionary system, rewards go to the businesses that enhance our choices — not those that restrict them. The telcos want to change all that by profiting from controlling our access to content.

Representative Capps joins a growing number of elected officials in Washington that are seeing through the telco spin to take a stand against bad telco-sponsored legislation. To see where your Senator stands, visit's Senate Map and call Congress today.

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