If you haven't been following this big story about the future of Net
neutrality, I'll try to lay it out as simply as I can.
Good Guys: Proponents of Net neutrality.
Bad Guys: The telecom giants who want to extract fees for service.
The Good Guys want to protect the Internet and keep it in the hands of folks
like you and me. The Bad Guys want to control it and put it in the hands of
big telecommunication corporations. Now, it's not that black and white of an
issue, but for the most part the Bad Guys are looking to gain more, while the
Good Guys (Google, Amazon.com -- still not great) want to protect what they
Right now the Senate is heating up, with a vote likely to come down in the
near future. A lot of our elected representatives have not come out one way
or another on this important issue. This really is the future of the Internet
we are talking about here. In the days ahead, if we abandon Net neutrality and
some big honcho in New York City decides websites like this one aren’t
worth putting on his company’s search engine, or provider package, it
could be lost.
These corporations very well could decide what is and what isn't available
to be viewed on the Internet. They could price the little guys out. It could
be like the Wal-Mart of the web. They could very well control most content,
and pick what you can and cannot see, read or listen to. It’d be the end
of Internet democracy in the United States, where all sites can be accessed.
There is quite an underhanded campaign going on now by a group called "Hands
off the Internet," who claim to want to protect the Internet from regulators
and Big Government. They are even running deceptive ads on blogs and other websites
in hopes of pulling Internet readers into their camp. Some of the big names
behind these cunning ads include AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon.
The co-chair of this group is the ex-spokesman for President Bill Clinton and
other Democrats, Mike McCurry. And what a trickster McCurry is. He even writes
a column over at the "liberal" Huffington Post from time to time.
He claims Net neutrality will kill the Internet.
Fact is, it's Net neutrality that has gotten us this far. Yet he writes, "The
Internet is not a free public good. It is a bunch of wires and switches and
connections and pipes and it is creaky. You all worship at Vince Cerf who has
a clear financial interest in the outcome of this debate but you immediately
castigate all of us who disagree and impune our motives. I get paid a reasonable
but small sum to argue what I believe."
So how much does this guy get paid? Well, not sure how much the big telecom
giants are dolling out (hundreds of thousands, I'm sure), but he charges $10,000
and up per speaking gig. That's not a "small sum" in my book. And
to think that the web isn't a "pubic good" is exactly the kind of
thinking that has taken away our airwaves and put them in the hands of big corporations.
You know when you turn on your TV how there aren't thousands of channels at
your disposal? That's because you have to pay for those channels, they aren't
free -- even though you supposedly own the airwaves. The same thing could happen
to the Internet if guys like McCurry have their way. You'd have to pay for access
to the web, and each carrier would have much different ideas about what the
“web” is. There would be different packages and different sites
available per package. Sort of like cable TV vs. DirectTV. It would radically
change the way the web works. And in the process it would likely leave out alternative
blogs and news sites -- as they would have to pony up big bucks to have access
to consumers. And even if they did, they might not make the cut. Somebody else
could decide if it’s a site worth your time or interest.
The Internet is a work in progress, spearheaded by innovative and creative
people, not big corporations. As the ol' adage goes: If it ain't broke, don't
Joshua Frank is the author of "Left Out! How Liberals
Helped Reelect George W. Bush" and edits www.brickburner.org.
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