Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Selling of the Internet

It's called Net Neutrality and it has been a cornerstone of the internet experience since the beginning. It is the principle by which my little blog here is treated by the various ISPs the same way as any other site, big, little, in between. Well, that's about to change if the big telecoms and cable operators get their way. They want to control not just the infrastructure they also want control of content. They want to be able to charge content providers for access to the "fast lanes"; don't want to pay? Well then you take your chances. Maybe you'll just get shuttled to the "slow lane" with the resulting degradation in sevice, or worse, shut out completely. This will basically turn the internet into something more akin to cable tee-vee.

Another affected service is something that also hits me close to home: voip phone service. I use Vonage and I'm very happy with it. Now say my cable provider (Adelphia, which I am also happy with) decides to charge Vonage a premium for high speed access, I guess my phone bill goes up. Another scenario (and this has already happened), Adelphia decides to offer their own voip or another service is willing to pay more, so they reduce Vonage's band width to the minimum (or less) and so my Vonage service is degraded to the point that I have to change to their voip or go back to a regular phone company again (ewwww).

This is moving through the Congress even as we speak. An amendment introduced by Ed Markey (D,MA) to the telecom bill that would have protected net-neutrality was defeated in the House 32 to 24 despite a last minute effort by the net roots community(we got caught sleeping on this one). Some good things are starting to happen, though. They say "politics makes strange bedfellows" and this issue is certainly proving that. When you have MoveOn.org teaming with the Gun Owners of America and Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo coming together this going to be the legislative fight of the year. " Whenever you see the far left and the far right joining together over something Congress is about to do, it's been my experience that what Congress is about to do is basically un-American." said Gun Owner spokesman Craig Fields. On the legislative front Senator Olympia Snowe (R,ME) and Senator Byron Dorgan (D,ND) are crafting a bill
much like the Markey Amendment that would prohibit the Big Players from creating the two tiered internet.

This is going to be a real battle. AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and the rest of them are pulling no punches, mounting a huge lobbying campaign and using front groups to try and push public support for their plan. They are also engaging in what amounts to corporate extortion, claiming that if net-neutrality is codified in law, they will essentially refuse to make improvements and stall the expansion of access to broadband. This nothing but bare naked corporate greed at its worst. They've decided that they want to profit on both the pipes and the product. If you value the freedom of access we have now, it's time for you to take action. Write your Senators and Congress Critters and let them know how you feel, then call them and tell them how you feel, then write them again and again and again. MoveOn.org has an online petition here.

For a better explaination of the issue than I can give, try this FAQ.

Just know that if we sit on our hands, the internet as we know it could be gone, forever, and when you here the cry of "Keep the government out of the internet" it's just code for "Give the internet to the corporations instead."

Clik the link to the right for more.

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