The Fight for Internet Freedom
(guest blog by Taylor Marsh)
The big ISPs want to control the Internet. The battle is over "net neutrality." As soon as this coming Wednesday, it could all be set in motion because Republicans and Democrats are set to make this happen. If you don’t know what it is watch this video now, because it effects you. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been writing on the web for 10 years. That’s a long time, longer than most. In all those years I’ve never heard of anything quite so dangerous as what’s now being debated in the Congress. Matt Stoller will be blogging about the consequences all this week as it plays out. Another site for information is SaveTheInternet. Josh Marshall has a discussion going on over at TPMCafe. Let me give you an example of how this could play out. If you’re Barnes and Noble and pay the right ISP, your site will open faster than, say, "YourLocalBookStore.com." There are so many things wrong with this idea it’s hard to know where to start.
The Internet is a free flowing, democratic forum where every site is created equal, big or small, conglomerate or start-up. Congress is about to change all that because they like the money they get from big telco companies. The threat is bigger than you realize, but there’s more.
How would the gutting of Network Neutrality affect you?
Google users—Another search engine could pay dominant Internet providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens faster than Google on your computer.
Innovators with the “next big idea”—Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy will be left in the “slow lane” with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.
Ipod listeners—A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
Political groups—Political organizing could be slowed by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay “protection money” for their websites and online features to work correctly.
Nonprofits—A charity’s website could open at snail-speed, and online contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can’t pay dominant Internet providers for access to “the fast lane” of Internet service.
Online purchasers—Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices—distorting your choice as a consumer.
The House Commerce Committee this coming Wednesday is set to vote to hand over the web to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Here’s how we got to this point and more about what it all means.
Last fall, however, the Federal Communications Commission, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, decided that the high-speed Internet services offered by the cable and telephone companies didn’t fall under that law, the Communications Act. Out the window went the law that treated everyone equally. Now, with broadband, we are in a new game without rules.
Telephone and cable companies own 98% of the high-speed broadband networks the public uses to go online for reading news, shopping, listening to music, posting videos or any of the thousands of other uses developed for the Internet. But that isn’t enough. They want to control what you read, see or hear online. The companies say that they will create premium lanes on the Internet for higher fees, and give preferential access to their own services and those who can afford extra charges. The rest of us will be left to use an inferior version of the Internet.
Get it? This matters to us all. If you’re still confused watch the video again.
Now it’s time to spread the word. Contact all your friends and the bloggers you read. Ask them to cover this issue. Then do what FDL readers do best. Get involved. Write Congress. Sign the petition. Get your friends to sign the petition. Ask other bloggers to cover the issue and post what’s about to happen.
Many people are very skeptical that the Congress can really change the Internet. Doubting politicians would dare break the web into a pay to play platform. Some don’t believe Democrats are involved, but both parties are complicit in trying to take our Internet away. It can happen, but more importantly, we can’t afford to wait and see if it does.