Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hands Off The Internet!!!

From today's Progress Report:

The End Of The Internet As We Know It?

Telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T want to build high-speed networks to provide video and Internet services in competition with cable companies. Will these networks be broadly available and foster technological innovation? Or will they simply benefit certain moneyed interests? The answer -- and, ultimately, the future of the Internet -- depends on the telecommunications bill currently winding its way through Congress. Consumer advocates and progressives like Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) are pushing for the telecom networks, which will be built using public rights-of-way, to provide universal, non-discriminatory access. The telecommunications companies (along with the cable giants) want to reserve the right to give preferential access to whomever has the most cash. Thus far, unfortunately, the industry is winning.

WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY?: Markey and others are pushing for the telecommunications bill to require "net neutrality." The telephone network already operates on this principle. Anyone willing to pay a reasonable fee can get his or her own phone line. Once you get a phone line, it works just as well as Paris Hilton's phone line or any other phone line. Also, it doesn't matter whether you're calling Brad Pitt or your grandmother, the connection works the same. (This is the way networks run naturally. Data is data. It doesn't matter who sends it.) Open, non-discriminatory access to the phone networks means businesses compete on the basis of what they do with the telephone network, not whether they can afford preferential access to it. The telecoms want to reserve the right to sell privileged access to their high-speed networks. (Edward Whiteacre, the CEO of SBC Communications put it this way: "Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that.") So, for example, could pay the telecoms a premium and ensure that its site loads much faster than an independent bookstore's site. The end result could be a two-tiered Internet, where your success doesn't depend on innovative ideas but rather the ability to pay, thus stifling small businesses that could become the next Microsoft or Google.

NET NEUTRALITY IN NAME ONLY: Last week, a House subcommittee rejected by a 23-8 vote an amendment by Markey that would have required net neutrality. Instead, the subcommittee vote to "codify the FCC's voluntary principles governing net neutrality." The key word here is "voluntary." The bill would do nothing to stop cable and telecom companies from offering "premium broadband tiers and charge content providers more to use them." There are no provisions "barring anti-competitive conduct," such as favoring content produced by the company that owns the network. Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy lamented, "Members from both sides of the aisle endorsed a plan which will permit cable and phone companies to construct 'pay as you surf, pay as you post' tollbooths for the Internet. Special-interest money contributed to committee members has given the AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others another brand new monopoly to control--our digital communications network known as the Internet. The committee's vote against 'network neutrality' was more about the power of big money to influence their anti-Internet freedom position." (Check out the top contributors for Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who is the sponsor of the current legislation.) Markey says the bill, as it stands now, "imperils the future of electronic commerce and innovation to the ‘world wide whims’ of broadband barons, and ties the hands of the FCC in a way that will legally prevent it from saving something very special."

TECH INNOVATORS SUPPORT STRONG NET NEUTRALITY GUARANTEES: The CEOs of some of the world's most innovative and successful technology companies -- including Google, EBay and Yahoo! -- wrote the House Energy Committee last week to express their concern that "legislation being considered by the Committee fails to preserve the longstanding openness of the Internet." As a result, according to the CEOs, "consumer choice, American innovation and global competitiveness" are put at risk. They urged the committee to adopt net neutrality rules that were "both meaningful and readily enforceable."

THE BUILD OUT PROBLEM: The telecoms want to use public rights-of-way (i.e., the land used to build roads, etc) to build their networks. But they also want the right to provide service only to the most profitable areas within those communities. As of now, the bill lacks a so-called "build out" provision that would require telecom companies competing with a cable franchise to provide service everywhere the cable company does. The result may be that low-income and minority neighborhoods will not see the benefits of improved networks and competition.

BYPASSING COMMUNITIES: Currently, cable companies are required to negotiate franchise agreements with local communities to provide service. The telecoms want to compete with the cable companies but bypass communities. These negotiations are the only opportunity for towns to ensure "cable and Internet providers pay attention to labor issues, provide for technology upgrades and ensure public safety concerns are met."


Blogger demondoll said...

I have to admit it. Your posts about these jerk-offs make my blood pressure rise a bit...
I've been making a nuisance of myself sending letters and e-mails to reps and the like. I get these stupid replies about how they appreciate me, but things are the way they are and blahblahblah
I'm gonna take my giant slapping hand out, soon.

Friday, April 14, 2006 10:20:00 AM  

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