Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Internet Wars, Part 2

The House Energy and Commerce Committee did as predicted: they stripped “net neutrality” from legislation concerning the Internet. If this bill is passed by Congress, it will not take long for AT&T, Comcast, and the other communication giants to become the “gatekeepers” for access to the Internet. We all know what happens when any business gains control of access to what was once free for all to use–it quickly becomes the domain of wealth and power.

If you are uncertain about what I mean, the international conglomerate of Nestlé provides a good example (and you thought they only made chocolate?). For years, Nestlé researchers have been visiting indigenous people in India and southeast Asia, watching how they use herbs and plants in healing and sustaining health. Nestlé then analyzes the flora, discovers what proteins and enzymes are most potent, and then patents them. Once the patent is in place, Nestlé then stops the farmers and healers from growing and using the plants and herbs because Nestlé holds the patent. If the people need the drugs, they have to buy them from Nestlé. Does this sound like an urban legend? It is there on the Internet from reputable sources: keywords: Nestle, patents, drugs, indigenous. Look it up…while you can.

AT&T will do the same with the Internet if they gain control of the Internet. The company will find ways to “improve” it and charge for the “improvements.” At some point, AT&T will advertise that it wants to improve Internet security. Well, we all know what happens when the fox guards the henhouse.

SBC/AT&T has already been paying for legislators to vote their way. It has come to light that Bobby Rush, the only Democrat on the committee who voted for the bill, received a million-dollar grant for the Bobby Rush Center for Community Technology (which employs his son) from SBC/AT&T. AT&T is willing to go the distance, lobbying (definition: buying and selling) to achieve its goals. The latest figure spent by business in lobbying efforts to control the Internet: 500 million. We have a lot of work to do if this is to be stopped.

Now that AT&T has bought the Energy and Commerce Committee, it will turn its attention to the rest of the Republican-controlled House where our own Dave (Rubber Stamp) Camp resides. He is running for re-election this year, and he will be listening to whoever contributes the most to his campaign fund. Care to guess whose money will be talking loudest when this bill comes to a vote?

It is easy to become cynical about this process and assume that Big Business will once again have its way. But to become cynical is to forget that while AT&T has the money, we have the votes. Even Dave Camp has to be re-elected to continue his rubber-stamping ways.

So if you want to keep the Internet free, call him, write him, send a fax, or visit his local office (all of this information is on the Internet–for now). Remind him that without our votes, he will not be able to serve–excuse me–to represent the interests of Dow, his party’s leaders, and, occasionally, the rest of his constituents. Let him know that “net neutrality” is more than just an idea, it is what keeps the Internet free and safe from the highest bidder.

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