Thursday, May 25, 2006


Wired News: Net Neutrality Gets a Boost
A U.S. House of Representatives committee has approved a bill that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or impairing their customers' access to Web content offered by competitors.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-13 to approve the bill, called the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act. Bill sponsor James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the chairman of the committee, was joined by a handful of Republicans and most of the committee's Democrats in supporting the bill.

Some committee members said they had questions about the bill's use of a 1914 antitrust law to enforce so-called net neutrality, but many ended up supporting the bill after the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April approved a different, wide-ranging telecommunications reform bill that does not have strong antiblocking rules.

The Energy and Commerce Committee bill gives that committee the sole jurisdiction for resolving content-blocking disputes, and several members of the House Judiciary Committee said that bill would take away their oversight of communication antitrust issues.

The Energy and Commerce legislation, awaiting action on the House floor, would allow the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to investigate blocking abuses only after the fact, and it would prohibit the FCC from creating new net neutrality rules. In contrast, the House Judiciary Committee's Internet Freedom bill would require broadband providers to give independent content providers the same speed and quality of service as they have. The bill is needed because most U.S. residents have little choice in broadband providers, said Sensenbrenner. A market with few consumer choices has "created an environment ripe for anticompetitive and discriminatory misconduct," he said.
AT&T is "disappointed" in the Judiciary Committee's vote, the company said in a statement. "We are optimistic that the majority in Congress will see this legislation as an attempt to solve a problem that does not exist," said Tim McKone, AT&T executive vice president for federal relations.
It ain't over 'till it's over, and a power grab like this is never really over. (cf ANWR.) But the fact that we have now won a battle speaks volumes.

Six weeks ago, when Matt Stoller @MyDD, Tim Karr @ Media Citizen and a few others (including yours truly) started screaming from the rooftops, the takeover of the Internet was so close to fait accompli that Big Telco was comfortable pulling off its heist in broad daylight. There was no real opposition, and AT&T and Verizon appeared to be on the verge of success.

And then the blogosphere lived up to its potential. Tim Karr put up, and gathered 3/4 of a million signatures supporting neutrality. My Raw Story column was reprinted and referenced many times over. People wrote emails and faxes to their representatives and Senators. In short, we raised the profile of the issue so high that the crime became (for the moment) too risky. The Telcos launched a classic astroturf PR campaign in response, but people (and the Judiciary Committee) somehow saw through the obfuscation. I think the result is incredibly significant: netroots defeats K Street.

We need to stay on top of this. There are many more tricks up the sleeves of those who would silence us. But tonight we should celebrate a well-earned victory.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations oon your piece of this step toward victory John. Enjoy the moment. Be prepared to make alot more noise though. Those telcos have alot of money and it is an election year. Many people still don't understand the difference between the net-neutrality campaign and the "Don't let the government regulate the internet" campaign from the telcos.

Here's a little you tube video that showed me what it all meant. You've probably seen it though.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for the kind mention John.

Yesterday’s vote is a milestone in our campaign. It would have been unthinkable just four weeks ago -- after we lost a vote on Net Neutrality in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In the weeks since the Energy and Commerce vote, we have ignited a prairie fire across America. And Washington is beginning to feel the heat:

• The Coalition now boasts more than 700 groups from all 50 states – a diverse list that includes, the Christian Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Gun Owners of America, Consumers Union, the American Library Association, and varied musical groups such as REM, Moby, The Roots and the Dixie Chicks.

• Major U.S. newspapers – including the San Jose Mercury News, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, and Houston Chronicle -- have written editorials supporting our position.

•More than 5,000 bloggers now link to the Web site and blog -- urging their readers to take action on this issue.

• And yesterday, the Coalition's petition drive surpassed 750,000 signatures.

With little money and through the efforts of many, we have turned momentum against a handful of phone and cable giants that are spending untold millions of dollars to squash Internet freedom. Through their high-priced lobbyists, slick ad campaigns and fake grassroots groups, companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are trying to drown out genuine grassroots and consumer advocacy. Yesterday’s vote proves, however, that our voices are being heard.


4:46 AM  

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