A few hundred activists, technologists and Internet veterans are locked in a Silver Spring, Maryland movie theater today trying to create an alliance that will beat the Bells.
The Freedom2Connect conference has a lot of Internet digirati star power. In addition to organizer David Isenberg, and sponsor Jeff Pulver, I spied DeWayne Hendricks, Bruce Kushnick, Jeff Chester, Bob Frankston, Brad Templeton, and dozens of others.
Our mission was to fight the Bell plot to start charging for the Internet as services, not bits, to guarantee that only big companies have a chance of succeeding online, to destroy the Internet as we know it.
The idea that your ISP should not favor their own content over other types is perfectly clear when you explain it to people. Each speaker had great stories to tell. The problem is that these folks lacked a screenplay, a way to reach this mass market of people who could change Congress' mind or, failing that, simply change Congress.
This is not something abstract or theoretical. They even had a real FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, on hand to give them an "attaboy" in a brief talk. The trouble is that there is no coherent message getting to the mass of Internet users.
Rick Ringel of Inter-Tel compared the current struggle to the 18th century enlightenment, saying that identity, mobility and innovation are just life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in new clothes. Ben Scott of FreePress said people will understand if you explain the Bells are trying to turn the Internet into cable television. Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy warned of a future where "the meter is always running" on your Internet use. Kushnick said the Bells got $200 billion of your dollars for networks they never delivered, and you should demand the mlney back.
The problem is it's not coherent. It's not packaged. It sounds like a bunch of old farts in a movie theater strutting across the stage in turn, or talking behind PowerPoints, and back-slapping one another. No Ti Fighters. No Millenium Falcon. Just a Death Star hovering over the city next door and we're all yukking it up.
That has to change. Hopefully, as the day goes on, it will.