"Net Neutrality" under siege

BlogHer Original Post

[Laura Scott blogs at pingVision and rare pattern.]

Save the Internet: Click hereSo you thought the internet was a place for free speech? Don't look now, but Congress is considering changing that:

Telecommunications giants scored a victory over Net Neutrality advocates in the U.S. legislature yesterday as the proposed "Markey Amendment," a provision to prevent Internet providers from creating access chokepoints was voted down in the House of Representatives.

The amendment's defeat has caused a firestorm of accusations against the telecom industry and the legislators siding with them in the debate. A diverse and growing opposition believes that Congress members like Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-ILL), who pushed for the amendment's defeat, are acting not in favor of their constituency but in favor of the big-money telecom industry.

Telecoms, like AT&T and Verizon, want to create a two-tiered Internet where customers and content providers can be charged for premium content delivery at higher speeds and quality than other content. The harshest critics believe that ability will give ISPs the ability to block, slow, or degrade content unfavorable to them, including access to websites and email.

One of the great promises of the internet has been how it has created the information explosion -- not just in terms of commerce, but in terms of personal expression. People are communicating online, interacting with each other, sharing ideas, information, experiences. Entire industries have emerged. Small businesses are empowered.

This, of course, is disruptive to the status quo. This insurgent economy is shaking the foundations of the multinational corporations. So perhaps we should not be surprised that such a lobbying effort is underway.

As you might expect, there's lots of money behind this.

Congressmen Barton and Rush have been put under the microscope by opponents lately for their financial relationships with the telecommunications industry. Both vocal opponents of Net Neutrality provisions in the Commerce Committee, Barton and Rush led the charge in defeating the Markey Amendment.

Many find it no small coincidence that out of Barton's top three campaign contributors, the second and third largest ones are SBC Communications (now AT&T) and Comcast Corporation. Tied for 12th among contributions is the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The Chicago Sun-Times points out that Bobby Rush, the only Democrat to sponsor the bill, recently "received a $1 million grant from the charitable arm of SBC/AT&T" for a community organization Rush is associated with called the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation.

Savetheinternet.com, is rallying a public outcry.

The SavetheInternet.com coalition is made up of dozens of groups from across the political spectrum that are concerned about maintaining a free and open Internet. No corporation or political party is funding our efforts. We simply agree to a statement of principles in support of Internet freedom.

They're offering this video (flash) for people to post on their websites to help spread the word:

...and bloggers are signing up in support:

What are your thoughts?

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