Saturday, September 8, 2007

...Abridging the Freedom of Speech...

The Situation:

If you're not familiar with the stripping of Net Neutrality, here's the basic plot-line: Your phone and cable companies, Internet Service Providers (ISP's), want to control what you see, hear and say on the net. Until this point we have roamed the web freely. Whether we are researching a paper or searching for a funny video, if it's out there, we have the freedom to view it. That is because until now Network Neutrality has been an assumed right, not law.

The ISP's seem to think, Hey, we can make more money by charging Google, Yahoo!, and all other content providers, like me, money to allow you equal access to what you are already paying for. If the content providers don't pay up, you and I will suffer with either slow connections or no access to our favorite sites.  Put simply, it's speed censorship.

The Comparison:
Wait a second! Someone trying to control what people see and hear? That seems kind of familiar. Maybe because it's already happening in other countries like IranNorth Korea and China. Is this what it has come to? Are Americans easily confused? Can we be convinced that this is not a freedom worth fighting for? According to this Comcast commercial, yes, yes we are...

They ran this almost every hour on every channel I watched.  But, when they are the cable company, I suppose it's free. I have to say, this is an impressive attempt at a Jedi mind trick. "*waves the hand* Don't worry about it. We know what's best for you." They are banking on inaction.

What they want us to think:
So there I was, at work, putting the final touches on a project when I heard what has driven me to write this post. Until this point, the limited news coverage had focused on what we've covered so far. Then, in the background, played the conversation between a news anchor and an ISP spokesman who pulled an amazing fake left. The ISP's are now saying that Net Neutrality prevents them from spreading high-speed Internet access to poor and rural communities.


This blew me away. I lost a bit of military bearing and went off, only to hear everyone there agreeing, that this was PR spin.  Looking abroad, Japan's universal, open Internet access is about 30 times faster and far cheaper than what we are paying here.  We are the greatest nation and we are being left far, far behind.

Costs us more:
Think about this for a moment. Say you want to buy something online. For this exercise, we'll say it's a nice big monitor to replace the one you are squinting at right now. Currently, you'd search the web and get a wide variety of models, prices and places to buy them from.  Without Net Neutrality, that search will only return results and prices from companies that your ISP wants you to see from companies paying for a monopoly on your business; companies who can now afford to jack their prices up.

There's no way...
Will they get away with this? Looks like they will. Officials with the Department of Justice Antitrust Team have come out against it. And why not listen to them? They've done a bang-up job for America in the past:

What can we do?
But seriously, what is it that saves the Internet? Well, I'm doing it right now. I've sent links to this post to all of my lawmakers, hoping that they accept it as a letter of concern and post their thoughts in the comments below. I'm look forward to hearing from them and you.

Will it work?
I've got faith in the system. Our lawmakers are there, like me, sworn to "support and defend the Constitution", not the corporations.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding net neutrality. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

As a member of the Republican High-Tech Task force, I have been working closely on broadband related issues. On balance, I have concerns about proposals to create burdensome and arguably unnecessary regulations on the Internet. The Internet's tremendous growth has been made possible not through increased government involvement, but from opening the Internet to commerce and private sector innovation. We should be careful about putting in place regulations that could negatively impact the further development of the Internet. According to a recent International Telecommunications Union study, the U.S. currently ranks 16 th in the world in terms of broadband penetration. Countries such as Korea , Japan and Canada currently rank higher than the U.S. We can ill-afford to fall further behind. Failure to close the gap will have serious consequences on our ability to compete.

Rather than a pre-emptive "net neutrality" law, I favor the approach proposed in the Senate communications reform bill (H.R. 5252) as reported on June 28, 2006 by the Senate Commerce Committee by a vote of 15-7. I believe that this bill strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring unfettered Internet access for all users and preserving the ability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to offer services without being stifled by burdensome regulations. I am pleased that the Senate bill provides important consumer safeguards in the form of an Internet Consumer Bill of Rights, which among other things would prohibit ISPs from blocking access to the Internet. The bill would provide the Federal Communications Commission power to enforce this bill of rights.

You may also be interested to know that as part of my work on broadband issues, I introduced the Rural Renaissance II Act of 2005 (S. 1253) to support rural economic development. This bill would provide rural America loans and grants to rebuild and update its infrastructure, including high-speed Internet, which is necessary to attract new residents and businesses. While I am pleased that this measure has been incorporated into other pieces of legislation, it has not yet become law.

In addition, I am a cosponsor of S. 1294, the Community Broadband Act of 2005. This legislation would allow municipalities to offer Internet broadband services, so long as they abide by state and federal telecommunications laws and do not discriminate against private competitors. I am happy that this legislation has been included in the Senate bill.

Because the Senate did not act on H.R. 5252, S. 1253 or S. 1294 in 2005 or 2006, the bill s expired with the close of the 109th congress. Please know that I will take a close look at these pieces of legislation when it is reintroduced in the 110th congress and that I value your advice.

I appreciate hearing from you and hope you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue of concern to you.

Norm Coleman
United States Senate

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to send me information from your blog posts. I appreciate your sharing it with me.

I am grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts. As U.S. Senator, I believe it is always important to listen and learn from what the people of Minnesota have to say to me. I am here in our nation’s capital to do the public’s business and to do right by the people of our state. With that in mind, please do not hesitate to contact me again about matters of concern to you.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to write to me.


Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator