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Will the Birthplace of Democracy Kill Freedom on the Internet?
Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, of Erie.
This is almost impossible to believe - but it's actually true.
About a month ago, the Obama administration announced its intent to write policy that would protect, by law, the freedom that has allowed the Internet to grow and flourish.
It's no joke that such protection is needed. Repression of the Internet by the corporations that control it has already started.
Last month, Apple told a healthcare reform group that they wouldn't carry a healthcare reform app on their AT&T network for 30 million iPhones because it was "politically charged"...
...two years ago, it was Verizon refusing to transmit text messages from NARAL Pro-choice America.
...and in 2007, in the most famous case of all, the Comcast Corporation blocked Internet users from sending the Bible.
As with most other good things that the Obama administration is trying to do, this has been lost in a flood of lobbyists, all arguing that having unchecked corporate power over the most vital part of our economy, political life, social networks, communication tools, reference libraries, and grassroots organizing would be really great for America. (I have cross posted a great piece by Jason Rosenbaum below explaining this in more detail).
Last Friday, 72 Democratic house members signed on to a letter agreeing with the lobbyists.
Among them were members from the great state of Pennsylvania, where American democracy was invented and the Bill of Rights was written - ensuring freedom of speech, freedom to assemble - all of the democratic powers that the Internet magnifies for millions more.
Here's who came out against the future of the Internet last week:
Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper
Rep. Chris Carney
Rep. Allyson Schwartz
Rep. Chaka Fattah
Rep. Tim Holden
....AND Representative Bob Brady - in whose district sits the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's first printing press, and pretty much all of the intellectual and moral heritage we are so very quickly as a nation flushing down the toilet.
The rules being written now will shape the future direction of the Internet over the next 20 years. It either can remain a village: fun, chaotic, free, humble, an experimental and educational space ... or turn into something that looks much more like a suburban strip mall: soulless, commercial, and cold.
I believe that Congress wants to protect the Internet. But they have a lot of pressure on them right now.
And they need to hear from you.
Crossposted at Fire Dog Lake:
A very odd letter from Democrats and telecom lobbyists on net neutrality
By: Jason Rosenbaum Saturday October 17, 2009 1:00 pm
On Thursday, 72 Democrats sent a letter to the Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski. The letter concerns net neutrality, which, according to the Chairman, is set to be enshrined as the FCC’s official policy.
The letter is very odd, especially if you’re not well versed in telecom lobbyist lingo. It lays out “concerns” relating to net neutrality that really don’t make much sense.
The heart of the letter reads:
As the FCC embarks on its much anticipated rulemaking addressing the subject of “net neutrality,” we therefore urge the Commissioner to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment. We are confident that an objective review of the facts will reveal the critical role that competition and private investment have played — and of necessity will continue to play — in building robust broadband networks that are safe, secure and open. In light of the growth and innovation in new applications that the current regime has enabled, as compared to the limited evidence demonstrating any tangible harm, we would urge you to avoid tentative conclusions which favor government regulation.
Clearly, these Members of Congress are urging the Commissioner not to adopt net neutrality standards. But the argument they’re making is very curious. They point to the innovation that drove the creation and adoption of the Internet and broadband technologies as a reason to keep government regulation out of the picture.
On the surface, this might be convincing. After all, the Internet has grown up just fine without these regulations, why would we need them now. That is, until you realize that net neutrality is already the de-facto law of the land.
Right now, we have net neutrality in deed if not word. The FCC has enforced the provision, too, as Chairman Genachowski explained:
We’ve already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet’s historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen one service provider deny users access to political content.
And as many members of the Internet community and key Congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons for concern about even greater challenges to openness in the future, including reduced choice in the Internet service provider marketplace and an increase in the amount of Internet traffic, which has fueled a corresponding need to manage networks sensibly.
The rise of serious challenges to the traditional operation of the Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see technology used to shut doors to entrepreneurs instead of opening them. The spirit of innovation stifled. A full and free flow of information compromised.
Or we could take steps to preserve a free and open Internet, helping to ensure a future of opportunity, prosperity, and the vibrant flow of information and ideas.
I believe we must choose to safeguard the openness that has made the Internet a stunning success. That is why today, I delivered a speech announcing that the FCC will be the smart cop on the beat when it comes to preserving a free and open Internet.
In other words, the Internet grew up to be the amazing tool it is today precisely because net neutrality reigned. Recently, telecom companies have started to change that.
In this light, the 72 Democrats who signed this letter don’t have much of an argument. They correctly note that the Internet has grown up well in the open platform it was given, a platform that includes net neutrality. And then they proceed to argue against making these rules formal. It makes no sense…
…until you consider the lobbyists.
As Free Press notes:
The big phone and cable companies have launched an all-out assault on Capitol Hill to try to stop Net Neutrality. They’ve hired hundreds of lobbyists, spent tens of millions of dollars, and unleashed sleazy Astroturf groups to mislead politicians, distort the facts, and resurrect long-debunked myths.
The bad news is that these dirty and deceitful tactics appear to be working on a few people who should know better.
This afternoon, several dozen Democrats sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking them to walk away from their plans to protect Net Neutrality.
Their letter parrots telco talking points — which had to come from somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t from the more than 1.6 million people who have signed a petition in support of Net Neutrality.
This is a campaign by telecom lobbyists to block net neutrality from being preserved, using a false talking point about increased regulation. And yes, these Democrats really should know better, especially people like Jared Polis, who’s trying to have it both ways by defending this letter and saying he supports net neutrality.
It is because of net neutrality that we have blogs like this one. It’s because of net neutrality that we have Google, YouTube, Facebook, and all the other sites we take for granted every day. And there’s nothing wrong with the FCC making net neutrality a formal rule so this innovation can continue into the future.
Sign the petition supporting net neutrality and watch out for that telecom spin.