Thursday, March 15, 2007

Astroturf Buzz Kill: Google Still Supports Net Neutrality

Published at Huffington Post

The blogosphere has been abuzz over a report that alleges Google is backing off its full commitment to Net Neutrality legislation. A recent story at GigaOm points to a quote from a Google exec that suggests the company is taking a different position.

This in turn fired up the AT&T shills and Astroturf groups who stumbled over themselves to declare disarray among Net Neutrality supporters.

But once again, these paid apologists got it wrong. Surprised by what appeared to be a Google about face, we actually called the company to ask them where they stand. (You would hope that any good reporter would have done the same.)

"Google's position on Net Neutrality has not changed one bit," Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told us. We asked him to put it in writing. He emailed us this:
"We strongly believe that Congress must take action to ensure a free and open Internet, in the face of a highly concentrated broadband market. Furthermore, Google's position -- which we testified to last year in Congress -- is that broadband network operators should not be permitted to charge any content owner extra fees or extra tolls. We continue to support net neutrality legislation by Senators Dorgan and Snowe, and by Representative Markey, and we remain steadfast members of the coalition supporting net neutrality."

Schmidt: With the Public on Net Neutrality

Adam echoes Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who just last week told Bloomberg TV's Judy Woodruff :
"We believe that it is a violation of a fundamental assumption of the Internet, that every piece of the Internet is reachable. It's called the end-to-end principle. And we believe that Net Neutrality, if it is given up, that new competitors, new entrants, new ideas, become much more difficult. So far we have been able to hold back the forces. It looks like we'll have a good year."
Good for Google. But it's important to remember that this debate is not just between one corporate Titan and another. It’s a battle that pits the special interests of the few (phone and cable companies) against a vast grassroots effort involving more than a million Americans from every corner of society.

As much as they try, the phone companies and their paid apologists can't ignore the vast grassroots campaign that has lifted Net Neutrality from obscurity and thrown a wrench in their plan to seize control of the Internet.

This debate is about ensuring that the Internet remains a engine for free speech, economic innovation and new ideas. We remain pleased Google sees it our way.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Activists Continue Drumbeat for Net Neutrality

Supporters Convene 20 Congressional Meetings in 20 Days is showing members of Congress what a real grassroots coalition looks like, drumming up more support for Net Neutrality during 20 "in-district" meetings with congressional offices.

In the meetings -- held over the past 20 days in offices from Shoreline, Wash., to Palm Harbor, Fla., from Providence, R.I., to Bakersfield, Calif. -- hundreds of activists urged their elected representatives and senators to support Net Neutrality in the 110th Congress.

Here are reports from activists in the field:

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. 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. 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."

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. 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 Ramona Taylor, a small business owner from Johnson City, Tenn., after her meeting with Rep. David Davis (R-Tenn.). In District

Rep. Davis Tells Ramona 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."

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. 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 was attended the meeting at Senator Carper's office. "That's it in a nutshell."

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."
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."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

"Because of Maria [Cantwell's] background in high-tech, she has a particular interest in Net Neutrality," reported Bill Purdy of Bainbridge Island. "She will be a cheerleader."

Purdy and other supporters met with Cantwell's outreach director, Shakti Hawkins. "She is strongly for the Dorgan bill," Purdy says. "The politicians who oppose this should be made to understand that Net Neutrality is pro-business, pro-entrepreneur, pro-free market." 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. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) on March 2

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

If you want to organize a meeting with your representative, please contact Ira Horowitz at

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Web Inventor: Net Neutrality A Priority for Congress

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web told U.S. House members Thursday that protecting Net Neutrality should be one of their top priorities.

Testifying today before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Sir Tim called upon Congress to ensure that the explosion of innovations happening on the Web not be slowed by limits imposed by Internet gatekeepers.

TBL Testimony

Listen to Sir Tim's Testimony

His prescription for the Web's continued success includes the preservation of Net Neutrality and the thwarting of new royalty systems that would "constrain what people can read or publish online."

Net Neutrality an 'Obvious Requirement'

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) asked Berners-Lee to prioritize the one or two policy priorities that Congress should solve in the short term.

"I hope that the Net Neutrality thing is a short-term thing," Sir Tim replied. "In most of the world people regard Net Neutrality as such an obvious requirement that I hope [the solution] will be short term."

"The Web took off in all its glory because it was a royalty-free infrastructure," Sir Tim said, reiterating his earlier warnings against threats by phone and cable companies to impose new tolls on Web traffic.

Freeing Up the Connection

"Non-discriminatory Internet provision is very important for a society based on the World Wide Web. I think that is very important," Sir Tim said in response to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California), who asked for an explanation of how an absence of non-discrimination rules would impact the development of the Web.

"The communication medium is so important to society we have to give it a special treatment … I will always be in favor of erring on the side of keeping the medium to be the blank sheet -- of allowing me, if I connect to the Internet, to connect to everyone else."

In June 2006, Sir Lee said that he was concerned about threats by phone and cable companies to constrain access to Web sites that don't pay their extortionate fees:
"When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission," he said. "Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA."
During his testimony today Sir Lee, who is now based in the US as a senior researcher at MIT, expanded upon these concerns from the perspective of a Web-based business:

"If we had a situation in which the U.S. had serious flaws in its Net Neutrality ... and [a country in] Europe did have Net Neutrality and I were trying to start a company, then I would be very tempted to move."

The Human Web

Subcommittee chair Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked Sir Lee to elaborate on his concerns about royalty-free proposals for the Web and how such royalties might have affected his work had they been a part of his original design for the Web.

Lee replied:
"Chairman Markey let me assure you that if I had charged from the word go, per click, the World Wide Web would not have taken off at all. We would not be here talking about it.

"Had there been a fee there would have been no investment. The investment people made in the Web was made by volunteers in their garages late at night. … I myself was allowed by my boss to do it in spare time. People did it in their ten percent time. And if there had been any pay-per-click, if there had been any form of fee, they would not have gone anywhere near it."
>> Read Subcommittee Vice Chair Mike Doyle's opening remarks

>> My Original Post at