Net Neutrality is the last frontier of press freedom. With it, consumers have open access to an array of equipment, content, applications and service, free from corporate control. Public interest groups want it preserved. Giant telecom and cable companies want control to:
establish toll roads, or premium lanes;
charge extra for speed and free and easy access;
control content to stifle dissent and independent thought;
co-opt this essential public space for profit; and
subvert digital and political democracy.
As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to “(s)upport the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.”
Obama made lots of promises he broke, notably not delivering promised change. Instead, he’s been the standard bearer for corrupt political/business as usual, elevating it to more extreme levels at home and abroad. He governs more like a crime boss in league with Wall Street, America’s military industrial complex profiteers, and other corporate favorites.
He systematically spurns democratic values, freedoms, and rule of law principles. Betraying working Americans, he implemented austerity, not vital aid when most needed in hard times. He ignores growing poverty, hunger, homelessless and despair. He champions expanded militarism, imperial wars, and state-sponsored terrorism.
He praises murdering American citizens abroad in cold blood. Anwar al-Awlaki broke no laws, but never got due process to explain. He was killed for opposing US imperial lawlessness globally. That perhaps also makes millions at home targets. He systematically spurns fundamental human and civil rights. He supports open-ended banker bailouts, other generous corporate handouts, and tax cuts for super-rich elites already with too much.
Will Internet freedom fare better on his watch? It prevents providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination. Losing it will stifle innovation, limit competition and control. It will also restrict or prevent free access to information. If lost, consumers will be sacrificed to benefit powerful telecom and cable giants. In fact, they lobby furiously to destroy Internet freedom for greater profits and control of online content.
Many congressional members support them. On February 6, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R. TX) introduced “SJ Res. 6: A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.” The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. No further action so far was taken.
Forty Republican senators co-sponsored it, including Lamar Alexander (R. TN, Susan Collins (R. ME), Lindsey Graham (R. SC), Charles Grassley (R. IA), Orrin Hatch (R. UT), John McCain (R. AZ), Mitch McConnell (R. KY), Rand Paul (R. KY), Richard Shelby (R. AL), and Olympia Snowe (R. ME), and 30 others. All get generous industry handouts (read bribes) to support legislation harming their constituents.
Writing for freepress.net, Tim Karr headlined “High Noon for Internet Freedom,” saying: This “arcane ‘resolution of disapproval’ now wend(s) its way through the Senate.” If passed, it’ll void a recent FCC rule, “seek(ing) to preserve long-held Internet standards that protect users against blocking and censorship.”
Many in Washington want these and other protections ended, including AT&T, other telecom and cable giants, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and ExxonMobil, among many others. With 81 co-sponsors, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R. TN) introduced a similar House measure on January 5, 2011:
“HR 96: Internet Freedom Act: To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet.” The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. No further action so far was taken.
Tea Party favorite Blackburn compares Net Neutrality to communist tyranny, saying: “The FCC is in essence building an Internet Iron Curtain that will restrict more of our freedom….It is just another example of a federal agency defying the will of the people.”
It’s making a “vampiric leap from its traditional jurisdiction – the terrestrial radio and land line telephones that have fallen into disuse – onto the gifts piled neatly under our trees. The iPads and iPhones, Androids, Wiis, Webbooks and WiFi will all feel the federal bite in a way they never have before….”
In fact, new FCC rules benefit providers by discriminating favorably for them between wired and wireless Internet access. More on that below. “(T)he FCC is effectively nationalizing the Web,” says Blackburn, adding that “the new Congress will prove a swift antidote to the federal bloodsucker you found at your throat this Christmas.” With support from enough congressional members like her, Internet freedom may be going, going, gone.
In contrast, at least 90% of Americans want Net Neutrality preserved. Whether or not Congress goes along is very much in doubt. If measures like SJ Res. 6 and HR 96 pass, FCC power to protect Internet freedom will be lost. Cable and telecom giants will subvert digital democracy as explained above.
They’ll be able to wreck “open architecture that has made the Internet a great equalizer for all users,” according to Karr. They want Congress to let them “manage the abundance of user-driven innovations online,” as well as updated future versions and new technologies.
They claim ending open access will best manage Internet traffic and content efficiently. Corporations want greater profits. They and congressional hard-liners also fear free flowing information and global democratic organizing movements online.
Occupy Wall Street protests are enlisting supporters nationwide this way. So have others worldwide for denied freedoms and others lost. At issue is will everyone reading articles like this online mobilize to save what perhaps they’ll lose otherwise.
Free expression and other fundamental freedoms are on the line. It’s up to ordinary people to save them.
A Final Comment
A September 28 freepress.net press release headlined, “Free Press Files Suit to Challenge FCC’s Open Internet Rules,” saying:
Free Press “will challenge the arbitrary nature of rule provisions that provide less protection for mobile wireless Internet access than they do for wired connections.” According to Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood:
Open Internet rules “came with the understanding that there is only one Internet, no matter how people choose to reach it.”
New FCC rules “fail to protect wireless users from discrimination, and they let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity.” Arbitrarily discriminating between wired and wireless Internet access is unjustified, especially as wireless popularity grows.
Free Press promises to “fight in court” for stronger rules. They want equal protections for everyone online. Digital democracy depends on it. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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