Save the Internet
By Reginald Johnson
April 8, 2010
We all know what corporations have done to the media business. They’ve given us trash programming on TV and radio and gutted their news divisions. In their relentless search for profits, corporations cut staffs at once-proud newspapers, reducing the quality of the product, and drove readers away.
Now corporations want to tear down the last bastion of media freedom and creativity, the Internet.
The big telecom companies like Comcast and ATT, which are Internet Service Providers, want to have the unbridled right to control the Internet, charging for use in some cases, blocking access to Web sites and monitoring content. We can only imagine what that would mean.
Up to now, the Internet has been largely free from interference. The Federal Communications Commission, which has regulated communications forms such as radio, TV and phone service, has recently been supportive of an open Internet and of the concept of “net neutrality” --- the idea that all Web content should be treated equally. A new national plan for broadband put forward by the FCC would enshrine the concept of an open and unfettered Internet.
But at the eleventh hour, along comes a major court ruling from the D.C. District Court of Appeals saying that, hold on FCC, you don’t have the authority to do that. The court says that the commission can’t enforce rules on the Internet because unlike phone firms and TV stations, the commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Web.
In making their ruling, the appeals court --- the same crowd that previously made some horrid rulings in civil liberties cases --- upheld a challenge by Comcast to an FCC ruling that the firm could not block a website from putting up certain content.
This ruling puts the FCC in a hole, and kills Internet freedom, if allowed to stand. Congress could reverse the thrust of the ruling by passing new law, broadening the power of the commission so it has full power over the Internet. But given the influence of the telecoms in Congress, this option might not work. The best move for the FCC, experts on the issue say, is to “reclassify” the Internet in their regulations and make the Web like a utility such as phone companies, subject to similar oversight.
But there’s politics on the FCC as well, and a move to reclassify will not be automatically approved. This is where the public comes in. If enough people let the FCC know the importance of keeping the Internet free and open, the commission is more likely to make the needed changes.
The vehicle for doing this is to send comments to the FCC on their new broadband plan, urging them to make sure net neutrality will be protected. Go to https://secure.freepress.net/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=437
and send comments. But hurry! The comment period for the plan ends at 5 p.m. TODAY, APRIL 8.
Also tell your Congress Member the importance of keeping the Internet open. Write a letter or call and demand that Congress passes a law guaranteeing net neutrality --- we don’t know for sure whether the FCC will do what’s needed, so Congress has key role here, too.
The folks at freepress.net and savetheinternet.com are spearheading this campaign and doing a great job; check out their websites for more background.
No corporate control of the Internet! Keep the Internet free!