As reported earlier, there’s a push underway to transform access to the Internet as we know it. The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies, including Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon are teaming up with Republican lawmakers such as Kay Bailey Hutchinson to roll-back, or eliminate entirely, the concept of Network Neutrality.
Network Neutrality, or Net Neutrality, is the foundational principle preserving a free and open Internet. In short, it stands for a no-discrimination principle that prevents Internet providers from controlling content or access to content. Without Net Neutrality, Internet providers could block, speed up or slow down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.
Those opposing Net Neutrality argue that corporations should, and do, have the power to tax content providers as a means of guaranteeing that their data receives preferential treatment. They want providers to have the power to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone and streaming video services, and to allow them the means, and legal protections, for slowing down or blocking entirely, services offered by their competitors.
In short, the assault on Net Neutrality is an all-out assault on consumers and an all out assault on free speech. Contrary to the “sky is falling” proclamations of corporate interest groups, the consequences of eradicating Net Neutrality–limiting consumer choice, competition and restricting access–would stifle, not promote innovation. Let me ask you this: do you like your cable service? I ask because without Net Neutrality the Internet will mirror cable TV as network owners decide which channels, content and applications are available to consumers and set differing prices and menus.
Thankfully the Federal Communications Commission finally appears willing to stand-up to this assault on speech and consumer choice. Tomorrow the FCC will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking that embraces Net Neutrality and would codify it, for the first time ever, in a series of rules that would enable enforcement and guarantee open access to the Internet.
But telecom does not give up that easily and they are lobbying hard against these efforts. AT&T has asked its employees to contact Congress to put pressure on the FCC to not act and specifically instructing employees to hide their corporate affiliation when doing so. We can fight back. Free Press has coordinated a counter-effort and you can join.
Please consider doing your part to support consumer choice, free speech, and the democratic exchange of information. The future of the Internet depends on it.
photo courtesy of Lee Jordan via Flickr