Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Senators Ready Assault on Open Internet

Stevens and his bill
If national polls are right, the upcoming midterm election could bring a dramatic shift of power on Capitol Hill. But that may not save us from a last-minute assault on Net Neutrality by members of the outgoing Congress.

The issue of Net Neutrality has become the most contentious piece of a massive telecommunications bill pending in the Senate. Net Neutrality is the longstanding principle that keeps phone and cable companies from discriminating against the content traveling over their wires.

At issue is whether giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon should treat all packets of Web information the same or whether they would be allowed to charge extra fees to guarantee that certain Web sites run faster than others.

These discriminatory tolls would have a chilling effect on the egalitarian Internet, by tilting the net's historically level playing field to favor those companies that pay the most.

It's a predatory scheme has little to do with the free market, It's more like a mafia shake down writes Columbia Professor Timothy Wu. “While it’s one way to earn cash, it’s just too close to the Tony Soprano vision of networking: Use your position to make threats and extract payments.”

In 2006, the nation's largest phone and cable companies have spent more than $100 million on D.C. lobbyists, think tanks, ads and campaign contributions to strip Net Neutrality from the latest rewrite of the Telecommunications Act (H.R. 5252). But this legislation stalled in the Senate after more than a million people contacted Congress opposing its lack of safeguards.

Today, a grassroots movement that barely existed at the beginning the year is on the verge of toppling one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. But all that could change in the lame duck session.

Confronted with his failure to gain popular support for his telecom bill, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is determined to force the bill to the floor after votes are counted on Nov. 7 — and before the next Congress convenes.
If Stevens’ succeeds it would be an affront to the millions of Americans who have spoken out in favor of Net Neutrality — and against plans by AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to seize control of the Internet.
The Coalition is keeping a special eye on this lame duck session. But we need your help. You can: Stevens and outgoing Senate Leader Bill Frist didn’t bring this bad bill to a vote before the elections because it was political dynamite. After Nov. 7, though, many are ready to deliver on promises to their high-spending friends in the telecom lobby. Americans need to stay on alert against any such lame duck maneuver.

It’s time for Congress to tear up this bad telecom bill and start over in 2007 with new legislation that protects Net Neutrality and the free and open Internet.

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