From today’s Guardian.
Democratic senator Al Franken has has issued a rallying cry to “innovators and entrepreneurs” at SXSW to fight back against Comcast and other companies lobbying to pave the way for a two-speed internet.
“The one thing that big corporations have that we don’t is the ability to purchase favourable political outcomes,” he said.
“Big corporations like the telecoms firms have lots of lobbyists – and good ones too. Every policy-maker in Washington is hearing much more from the anti-net neutrality side than the side without lobbyists. But everyone has more to fear from these big corporations than from us. [Their proposals] would benefit no one but them.”
In the US, where the net neutrality debate rages on despite a conciliatory bill by the Federal Communications Commission in December, telecoms giant Verizon is fighting the rules in a bid to allow internet providers to choose which content they can charge for. Net neutrality advocates fear that internet providers, most pertinently Comcast which controls a large stake in both TV and internet provision, could downgrade rivals’ content and boost delivery of their own.
“[On today’s internet] you don’t need a record deal to make a song and have people hear it, or a major film studio for people to see your film, or a fancy R&D job. But the party may almost be over,” Franken said.
“There is nothing more motivated than a corporation that thinks it is leaving money on the table. They are coming on the internet and wanting to destroy its freedom and openness. All of this is bad for consumers but an outright disaster for the independent creative community.”
Big corporations like Verizon and Comcast are not “inherently evil,” he added, but their duty to shareholders “to make as much money as they can” could change the internet for every American as they know it.
Comcast was last month accused of effectively erecting a tollbooth that puts competitive video streaming service, namely Netflix, at a competitive disadvantage. Franken on Monday accused Comcast of thinly disguising its “real endgame,” which he argued was “to put Netflix out of business”.
See also Rory Cellan-Jones’s blog post about tomorrow’s ‘Ministerial Summit’.
Lovely open letter on Net Neutrality from Steve Wozniak in The Atlantic. Some snippets:
To whom it may concern:
I have always loved humor and laughter. As a young engineer I got an impulse to start a Dial-a-Joke in the San Jose/San Francisco area. I was aware of such humor services in other countries, such as Australia. This idea came from my belief in laughter. I could scarcely believe that I was the first person to create such a simple service in my region. Why was I the first? This was 1972 and it was illegal in the U.S. to use your own telephone. It was illegal in the U.S. to use your own answering machine. Hence it also virtually impossible to buy or own such devices. We had a monopoly phone system in our country then.
The major expense for a young engineer is the rent of an apartment. The only answering machine I could legally use, by leasing (not purchasing) it from our phone company, the Codaphone 700, was designed for businesses like theaters. It was out of the price range of creative individuals wanting to try something new like dial-a-joke. This machine leased for more than a typical car payment each month. Despite my great passion and success with Dial-a-Joke, I could not afford it and eventually had to stop after a couple of years. By then, a San Francisco radio station had also started such a service. I believe that my Dial-a-Joke was the most called single line (no extensions) number in the country at that time due to the shortness of my jokes and the high popularity of the service.
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
And here’s a nice illustration of why this really matters.