Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Internet Wars, Part 4

As early as this Friday (June 9), the issue of network neutrality will once again be on the chopping block. H.R. 5252, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006 (COPE Act) could be voted upon. According to Common Cause, the act contains a flawed approach to net neutrality, and would “allow telephone and cable companies to turn the free and open Internet into a toll road where their own economic interests take priority over citizen discourse.“ Review Internet Wars 1-3 for greater detail on what this means.

But I can’t resist giving one example. Suppose AT&T is your cable and ISP company. Suppose AT&T had made an arrangement with search engine X where, for example, the company might give AT&T a percentage of income earned from traffic on their sites. Now, suppose you decide to use Google for some Internet research. AT&T could, and probably would, reduce the bandwidth or otherwise find a way to slow your access to Google. So, after repeatedly having long waits for Google to respond to your queries, you give up an try to find another search engine that might be faster. Voilá, Engine X is very fast. Which search engine would you probably use from then on?

AT&T scoffs at such examples, saying in their press releases that the people who oppose them “can only point to two examples where that has happened, and they’re both in Canada.” Notice AT&T didn’t say, “we would never do something like that.” Also, they hoped we would overlook the obvious: the examples are from Canada because the Canadians have allowed their version of AT&T to control the Internet, something we are fighting against on this side of the border.

Fortunately, two Representatives have introduced amendments that would protect net neutrality. James Sensenbrenner’s Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act (HR 5417) and Rep. Edward Markey’s Network Neutrality Act (HR 5273). Common Cause says, “Both these bills would prohibit Internet service providers from blocking, impairing or discriminating against any lawful content, applications or services on the Internet.“ This sounds good.

Now here’s the fly in the ointment. The House of Representatives will be voting on this important issue. And You Know Who is our Representative (that is his title, but he only represents Dow*). We don’t know how the Republican leadership has told him to vote yet, since business executives have come out against the changes. So it is worth a shot to call or fax him to let him know that we want to keep the Internet free of control, and net neutrality to be safeguarded.

Phone: (202) 225-3561
Fax: (202) 225-9679
* In case you are new to this blog, our Representative is Dave Camp, aka, Rubberstamp Camp, and a few other nicknames not suitable for print.


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