Want net neutrality? Think about who you vote for

 I believe that most of you are in favor of an unfettered Internet, where broadband Internet service providers should not grant greater speeds, impose lesser speeds, or fee-type impediments toward large bandwidth content or service providers who won't sign partnership agreements.While I do agree with you, I question whether the political beliefs that many of you hold are consistent with your passions for an unfettered Internet.

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I believe that most of you are in favor of an unfettered Internet, where broadband Internet service providers should not grant greater speeds, impose lesser speeds, or fee-type impediments toward large bandwidth content or service providers who won't sign partnership agreements.

While I do agree with you, I question whether the political beliefs that many of you hold are consistent with your passions for an unfettered Internet. 

I know that a lot of you out there think that most, if not all, politicians are ethically challenged- and rarely bother to vote as a result.

Others of you consider yourselves Libertarians, who want government out of the executive suite and the boardroom.

Many more of you consider yourselves ardent free-enterprisers, and regularly vote for conservative, "pro-business" Republican candidates who mirror your views.

But I am here to tell you that while you most certainly have the right to vote your beliefs, yesterday's U.S. House subcommittee vote on net neutrality legislation should tell you which politicians and which political party are more on the side of an open, unfettered Internet. 

If, a year or two from now, you open up your DSL or cable Internet bill and see thinly-veiled surcharges for unlimited enhanced access, or even find that your Google Earth "flights" seem to take longer to load, then you may find yourself muttering about why you didn't factor in your passion for the open Internet into your Election Day choices. 

Along largely partisan lines, a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee dealt a devastating blow yesterday to the concept of net neutrality.

The provision, if adopted, would have prohibited broadband service providers from offering higher-speeds to partners or affiliates. 

The Democrat-backed provision failed by a 23-8 margin. It was replaced by one that gives the FCC authority to enact up to $500,000 in fines to broadband carriers who commit net neutrality violations (such as blocking or slowing traffic from major broadband content providers and services), but denied the FCC authority to make new rules to specifically define what these violations are.

So, in other words, the FCC can fine broadband providers for violations of a concept that at least as far as statute goes, either doesn't exist or is so non-specific as to make it unactionable. 

As my colleagues Declan McCullagh, and Anne Broache note, the amendment had attracted support from companies including Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and their chief executives wrote a last-minute letter to the committee on Wednesday saying such a change to the legislation was "critical."

They also note that A CNET News.com report published last week showed that net neutrality legislation opponents AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on political campaigns, lobbying expenditures and related matters from 1998 until the present, while Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo spent only a combined $71.2 million. 

Why such a skewed margin in favor of the access providers over the content providers? Well, until a few years ago, most of those companies had a mindset that government was irrelevant, and large Washington-based lobbying apparati were not as necessary as well-funded marketing campaigns and research labs.

Microsoft realized the error of their was earlier than most, but none of these content companies have the long tradition of lobbying that the telecoms and cable giants have.

So go on and be skeptical of all politicians.  But when you hide your head in the sand and don't vote - or vote for a Congressperson or Senator who doesn't believe net neutrality is an issue, then you have no right to holler when the broadband duopolists block or charge fees for your favorite content.

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