Monday, April 24, 2006

Use the Internet? Want to keep it free?

You are reading this blog on the Internet, probably on a broadband connection. Do you like the speed of your broadband? What if your ISP (Internet Service Provider) managed to limit all competition, then inform you that they were going to charge you whatever they wished because “it’s us or dialup.” Would you be happy about that?

What if your ISP decided to block you from visiting certain sites because they were critical of your ISP, or, maybe the sites didn’t express your ISP’s preferred political opinions. Would that disturb you? (It has already happened in Canada with the Canadian version of AT&T.)

You think this can’t happen here? Well, it just might happen, and it could happen soon unless we do something to stop it. Representative Joe Barton, (R-Texas) and Representative Bobby Rush, (D-IL), have proposed legislation that does away with “network neutrality,” the fundamental principle that the Internet was founded upon. Simply stated, network neutrality says that the Internet is open and available to everyone. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue: it is an issue of big businesses like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast taking control over the last major free-speech bastion that exists for us.

Almost all other sources of information (radio, television, newspapers, and magazines) are controlled by a handful of multinational corporations. The corporations control what stories are made public, and what “dirty laundry” is uncovered by investigative reporters (the few who are still working). Curious about what corporations own what networks, newspapers, radio stations? You can find it on the Internet, at least for now. But that could change.

This is an election year: unless you just arrived from Mars, this should not be news to you. So the corporations–the champions of government deregulation–are spending millions to buy (excuse me, “influence”) politicians to regulate the Internet. The corporations wish merely to be gatekeepers, which means they want to make money controlling the traffic and usage of the Internet.

What might this mean for Internet users? Anyone who works from home, runs a small business, writes a blog, supports political organizations, sends pictures to family, maintains websites, keeps in touch with friends and family online–in other words, any of us who use the Internet–we are the ones who will be affected. The Internet was built by scientists, universities, and various governmental organizations and primarily funded by the government (with our taxes). Corporations saw the potential for huge profits, so they jumped on the bandwagon. Now they want to not only be on the bandwagon, they want to drive it. And they are paying Congress for the privilege by making large campaign contributions (in other countries this would be called bribery), and Congress is responding. Barton, Rush, et al, are hoping no one will notice, but we have. An ad hoc organization calling itself “Save the Internet” has formed. Whether or not you agree with their campaign and logic, they have done a good job of pulling together a map that shows how various Representatives on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have voted on this issue: (

You will see that Representative Dave Camp is not on the committee. However, if the committee report and recommendation reaches the floor of the House, Camp will be voting on it. As you know, Camp does a fine job of voting exactly as his party tells him, a record that has earned him the nickname, “Rubber Stamp Camp.” So who do you think the Republicans will side with: 1) citizens, or 2) Big Business? If your answer was 2, then you know how Camp will vote; if your answer was 1, this means you really have just arrived from Mars.

Contact Dave Camp now and let him know that you want him to uphold network neutrality. His contact information is:
137 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3561
Fax: (202) 225-9679

Let him know we want to keep the Internet free.


Blogger Bob said...

Rock on!

2:19 AM  

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