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John T. Unger

COPE Act Passed Without Protections for Net Neutrality

John T. Unger April 30, 2006

This post is not about TypePad, but because Net Neutrality is what allows blogs to compete on a level playing field with much larger sites, I urge you to read it and take action.

The defeat of the Markey net neutrality amendment last Wednesday was not the end of the fight for internet freedom. It is, though, a disturbing indication that unless the issue is made clearer to more people, we stand to lose much of what we take for granted online. Net Neutrality means all online activity must be treated equally, and companies like AT&T Verizon, or Comcast must allow Internet users to view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site.

I posted last week, urging everyone to write, email or call their Congressman in support of the Markey ammendment. When the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act" telecom law, or COPE Act while voting down the proposal to protect Network Neutrality, we lost the first battle. But another opportunity to make ourselves heard comes as the action moves to the Senate.

I see Wednesday's Committee vote as an incentive to get more involved, before telecom company lobbyists succeed in paying our government representatives to let telecom providers decide what we can and can't see or use online.

How you can help:

  1. Put a Save The Internet banner on your blog today.
  2. Join the SavetheInternet.com Blogger Team today—get  breaking news.
  3. Post on your blog today about this issue.
  4. Urge people to sign MoveOn's petition and call Congress today.
  5. Learn more about the issue and stay current with news as it develops. Susan Crawford has a good post explaining where things stand now.
  6. Talk about Net Neutrality—tell your friends, explain the issue, help people understand that this is something that effects everyone, not just geeks and bloggers.

Last week, the SavetheInternet.com Coalition gathered more than 250,000 petition signatures, rallied more than 500 blogs to write about this issue, and flooded Congress with thousands of phone calls. As the legislation moves to the full House and Senate, we need to do everything we can to increase the pressure to protect the open internet.

How would the gutting of Network Neutrality affect you? (list from SavetheInternet.com)

  • 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.
  • Political groups—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.
  • 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.

Blocking Innovation

Corporate control of the Web would reduce your choices and stifle the spread of innovative and independent ideas that we've come to expect online. It would throw the digital revolution into reverse. Internet gatekeepers are already discriminating against Web sites and services they don't like:

  • In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.
  • In 2005, Canada's telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a contentious labor dispute.
  • Shaw, a major Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to "enhance" competing Internet telephone services.
  • In April, Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com -- an advocacy campaign opposing the company's pay-to-send e-mail scheme.

This is just the beginning. Cable and telco giants want to eliminate the Internet's open road in favor of a tollway that protects their status quo while stifling new ideas and innovation. If they get their way, they'll shut down the free flow of information and dictate how you use the Internet.

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