• 24 APR 06
    • 0

    A free and open Internet is under seige

    Please distribute widely

    Some time ago the global telecommunications industry set up an organisation, abbreviated “WIN” specifically to counter activist’s Internet web sites. Now it looks like they are very close to a win by gaining control over the Internet. If the following comes to pass, kiss goodbye to all those independent EMF sites – thanks to a neo-conservative U.S. Congress. Imagine an Orwellian day, not too far off, when the only information available on the Internet on the EMF health controversy will be the spin put out by Repacholi’s WHO and ICNIRP.

    Don

    Several articles follow

    Congress Is Giving Away the Internet, and You Won’t Like Who Gets It
    By Art Brodsky
    TPM Cafe

    Saturday 22 April 2006

    Congress is going to hand the operation of the Internet over to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Democrats are helping. It’s a shame.

    Don’t look now, but the House Commerce Committee next Wednesday is likely to vote to turn control of the Internet over to AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and what’s left of the telecommunications industry. It will be one of those stories the MSM writes about as “little noticed” because they haven’t covered it.

    On the surface, it may seem a stretch to think that those companies could control the great, wide, infinite Internet. After all, the incredible diversity of the Net allowed everything Web sites and services of all kinds to exist in perfect harmony. What’s more, they were all delivered to your screen without any interference by the companies that carried the bits to and fro. Until recently, they had to. It was the law. The telephone companies, which carried all of the Web traffic until relatively recently, had to treat all of their calls alike without giving any Web site or service favored treatment over another.

    The result was today’s Internet, which developed as a result of billions of dollars of investments, from the largest Internet company that spent millions on software and networking, to the one person with a blog who spent a few hundred dollars on a laptop. The Internet grew into a universal public resource because the telephone and cable companies simply transported the bits.

    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.

    Admittedly, it hasn’t become a problem yet. But to think it won’t become one is to ignore 100 years of history of anti-competitive behavior by the phone companies. And it was a mere six weeks or so from the time the FCC issued its ill-fated decision to the time when Ed Whitacre, the CEO of (then-SBC) now AT&T issued his famous manifesto attacking Google and other Web sites for “using my pipes (for) free.” They don’t, by the way.

    Here’s the inside baseball: A couple of weeks ago, a courageous band of legislators tried to stop the madness in Subcommittee. Ed Markey, Rick Boucher, Anna Eshoo and Jay Inslee proposed some good language to protect the Internet. For their troubles, they just got four more votes, other than theirs. Just three Democrats, other than the sponsors, voted for it. Only one Republican voted for it. When we talk about special interest giveaways, this one will be at the top of the list. And we won’t have only Republicans to blame.
    *************************************************************

    And from “MoveOn” :

    Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These activities, plus MoveOn’s online organizing ability, will be hurt if Congress passes a radical law that gives giant corporations more control over the Internet.

    Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon doesn’t have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.

    If Net Neutrality is gutted, MoveOn either pays protection money to dominant Internet providers or risks that online activism tools don’t work for members. Amazon and Google either pay protection money or risk that their websites process slowly on your computer. That why these high-tech pioneers are joining the fight to protect Network Neutrality1””and you can do your part today.

    The free and open Internet is under seige””can you sign this petition letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:

    http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7356-5460557-JuwVWSvWmAGEYwzSLs_QjA&t=4

    Then, please forward this to 3 friends. Protecting the free and open Internet is fundamental””it affects everything. When you sign this petition, you’ll be kept informed of the next steps we can take to keep the heat on Congress. Votes begin in a House committee next week.

    MoveOn has already seen what happens when the Internet’s gatekeepers get too much control. Just last week, AOL blocked any email mentioning a coalition that MoveOn is a part of, which opposes AOL’s proposed “email tax.”2 And last year, Canada’s version of AT&T””Telus””blocked their Internet customers from visiting a website sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating.3

    Politicians don’t think we are paying attention to this issue. Many of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and are on the verge of selling out to people like AT&T’s CEO, who openly says, “The internet can’t be free.”4

    Together, we can let Congress know we are paying attention. We can make sure they listen to our voices and the voices of people like Vint Cerf, a father of the Internet and Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist,” who recently wrote this to Congress in support of preserving Network Neutrality:

    My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity…Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.4

    The essence of the Internet is at risk””can you sign this petition letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:

    http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7356-5460557-JuwVWSvWmAGEYwzSLs_QjA&t=5

    Please forward to 3 others who care about this issue. Thanks for all you do.

    ”“Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the MoveOn.org Civic Action team
    Thursday, April 20th, 2006

    P.S. If Congress abandons Network Neutrality, who will be affected?

    Advocacy groups like MoveOn””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.
    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.
    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.
    Small businesses and tele-commuters””When Internet companies like AT&T favor their own services, you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.
    Parents and retirees””Your choices as a consumer could be controlled by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc.
    Bloggers””Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips””silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.

    To sign the petition to Congress supporting “network neutrality,” click here:
    http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7356-5460557-JuwVWSvWmAGEYwzSLs_QjA&t=6

    P.P.S. This excerpt from the New Yorker really sums up this issue well.

    In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of “tiered access” for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got better service: their customers’ calls went through immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn’t pony up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them sometimes got an “all circuits busy” response. Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.’s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.

    If you’ve never heard about this bit of business history, there’s a good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a “common carriage” rule: it provided the same quality of service to all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while “tiered access” never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet.

    Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called “network neutrality,” which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality was considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of the basic rules of “Internet freedom.” In the past few months, though, companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to scuttle it. In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers could receive what BellSouth recently called “special treatment,” and those that don’t could end up in the slow lane. One day, BellSouth customers may find that, say, NBC.com loads a lot faster than YouTube.com, and that the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run more smoothly. Tiered access will turn the providers into Internet gatekeepers.4

    Sources:

    1. “Telecommunication Policy Proposed by Congress Must Recognize Internet Neutrality,” Letter to Senate leaders, March 23, 2006
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1653

    2. “AOL Blocks Critics’ E-Mails,” Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2006
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1649

    3. “B.C. Civil Liberties Association Denounces Blocking of Website by Telus,” British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Statement, July 27, 2005
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1650

    4. “At SBC, It’s All About ‘Scale and Scope,” BusinessWeek, November 7, 2002
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1648

    5. “Net Losses,” New Yorker, March 20, 2006
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1646

    6. “Don’t undercut Internet access,” San Francisco Chronicle editorial, April 17, 2006
    http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1645

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