The future of the Internet? Keep it in neutral!

Posted by Mitchell - September 28, 2006 (entry 400)

One of the key media policy fights in the U.S. government in 2006 will concern what's termed "net neutrality" -- the idea that users have freedom of choice and freedom of opportunity on the internet. It's basically been the bedrock of telephony policy in the U.S. for the past one hundred twenty years.

But now, the big cable and telecom companies -- you know, the punks who spent the past year trying to strangle community internet initiatives in the crib -- have this big moneymaking idea to set up separate tiers of internet access and grant favored access and speed to those who can pay more. In other words, they want to set up electronic apartheid and give themselves favored status, and have been lobbying and throwing campaign cash with abandon to make it happen with a hoped forthcoming rewrite of the 2006 Telecommunications Act.

But it's not that cut-and-dried among industry types. There are some companies with some clout and some cash -- including Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Microsoft -- which made their money and made their presence thanks to net neutrality, and have expressed an interest in keeping things neutral.

But beyond industry-versus-industry slugfests -- what is cool and especially encouraging is that national-scale activist initiatives to maintain net neutrality have sprouted like mushrooms in the past week. (Hey, you! Click on those links and speak out now!) And calls to keep the internet open are fortunately increasing, and may increase further.

Plus, there's the potential for victories -- just like this past week in Indiana. (UPDATE: I spoke a bit too soon. The struggle is still going on.)

Interesting potential monkey wrench, part one: The leading name to take the last vacancy on the FCC, though he's a Republican stupidhead, has spent a career fighting the Baby Bells.

Interesting potential monkey wrench, part two: Verizon (one of those greedy punk telecom companies) is asking Joe Barton to lay off on the current press to get legislation done. Maybe Verizon thinks Barton is trying to bite off more than he can chew, and as a result he might choke and this might decrease the likelihood of any horrible bill getting passed.

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