April 24, 2006

Assassinating the Internet

As Matt Stoller says, "The internet is open because private companies haven't been allowed to block content they don't like. Now the telcos want to make it so they can block what you see."

The internet currently operates on the same principles as the telephone networks. By law, no telephony services provider is allowed to disallow access to their network or to differentiate among calls that pass over those networks in terms of service based on their point of origin.

In short, if your call originates with AT&T and ends up being passed over a Sprint network, Sprint is obligated to carry that call without prejudice. They may not route the call over a slower part of their network or deliberately interfere with it. They may not alter the quality of the call. They may not choose not to carry it. All the telcos have this mutual obligation, which is why you can make a phone call from anywhere in the US to anywhere else in the US and get a connection, one that will not differ in quality from anyone else's.

Because the internet was originally set up to operate on the telephone trunks, it has always fallen under these rules. That means that your access to any public network or server cannot be hindered or impeded based on your service provider or how much you pay for that service. Your access to content cannot be impeded based on the business interests of your service provider in steering you towards content that they have a financial stake in drawing page views towards. Your access to content cannot be impeded based on the personal taste, political leanings or religious beliefs of your service provider. You can't be charged extra to have a less inhibited surfing experience. Your ability to send and receive email can't now be impeded anymore than your ability to make a phone call to whomever you please.

All of this will change if net neutrality, as our current state of affairs is called, is compromised. If the big telcos are allowed to selectively charge for access to their networks and block access to content based on its message or origin, or whether or not the content provider was paying them access fees. The end of net neutrality would mean the end of the internet as we know it. No joke. No exaggeration.

The Republican sponsored legislation is being promoted by a slick ad campaign organized by the telcos under the catchy slogan of The Future ... Faster!

Those of us lucky enough to live in Washington State are represented on the Energy & Commerce Committee by the most excellent Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st CD), who has already voted in favor of net neutrality. Residents of other states might want to check this map to see where their representatives stand. If you live in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee or Texas, contact your state representatives that haven't decided yet. When you're done establishing what the electeds are up to, or if you don't have a state representative on the committee, these additional links are helping to organize the public to speak out against this now.


Moveon Petition

Save the Internet on MySpace

The internet has been the greatest boon to free speech and citizen activism that the world has ever seen. Speak out now while there's still time to preserve it, so that this instrument of public communication is freely available for years to come.

Posted by natasha at April 24, 2006 10:37 PM | Internet | Technorati links |

this is the clearest explanation of the neutrality issue / thank you so much

Posted by: Katherine Hunter at April 25, 2006 06:40 AM

"Because the internet was originally set up to operate on the telephone trunks, it has always fallen under these rules."

That's just plain not true. These rules apply to common carriers. Comcast and other cable companies, for example, are not considered common carriers, as the Supreme Court reaffirmed just last year. ISP's not owned by common carrier providers but using circuits bought from common carriers are also not subject to these rules.

Posted by: Curious Stranger at April 28, 2006 06:43 PM

Everytime I go to a site and they discuss issues the overtones are always pure politics. All BS, Republicans /Democrats same lies for my whole lifetime. No difference between them. People rally behind both sides as if they were athletic teams (as if the teams care). This page starts with a reference to bamboozled, etc. , exactly, chumps get hoodwinked, both parties know it , do it and count on it. Things will never change in that regard, however things are going to change in every regard pretty soon, big time changes that no politics can help.Whimper or otherwise it doesn't really matter.

Posted by: Joe at April 30, 2006 09:48 AM