Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to move forward with regulations to preserve the open architecture of the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to make our current system’s “net neutrality” official by ensuring that broadband providers “cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications” and are “transparent about their network management practices.” That same day, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation to block the FCC, inexplicably arguing that preserving net neutrality would be a “government takeover of the Internet.”
Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) held a conference call with bloggers to discuss net neutrality. He and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced legislation — which currently has seven co-sponsors — to “establish overarching national broadband policy and ensures an open and consumer oriented Internet.” Markey stressed the importance of fighting “misinformation,” invoking death panels and the other red herrings the right wing slung into this summer’s health care debate:
As you all know, a lot is being written and said about what open Internet requirements would mean for broadband investment innovation and consumers. [...]
It’s almost as though some people want to have their own equivalent of “death panels” that we had in the health care debate back in August. That was a red herring that took us off the main point of providing health care to everyone, for a month or six weeks. Now we’ve got that straightened out, but we have to battle hard to make sure the misinformation is responded and responded to in a very brief period of time.
Fox News host Glenn Beck has been fear-mongering on net neutrality for weeks, saying that the Obama administration is trying to shut down freedom of speech. “You have a freedom of speech or the government,” said Beck last week. “You can’t really have both.” He’s been getting his talking points from Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity, who also fueled Beck’s campaign against former Obama adviser Van Jones. Some telecom companies — which, along with the cable industry, is driving opposition to an open Internet — have begun astroturfing efforts as well.
The telecom and cable industries are the ones interested in controlling access to information on the Internet. What the FCC’s regulations on net neutrality would do are ensure that the Internet remains an open, non-discriminatory marketplace of ideas, rather than a pay-for-play system where broadband providers could make certain companies’ sites run faster if they’re willing to dole out large sums of money.
Net neutrality is essential to free speech, which both the Christian Coalition and the Gun Owners of America have acknowledged. From a 2008 testimony by Michele Combs, the Christian Coalition’s vice president of communications:
Consequently, the reason the Christian Coalition supports Net Neutrality is simple. We believe that organizations such as the Christian Coalition should be able to continue to use the Internet to communicate with our members and with a worldwide audience without a phone or cable company snooping in on our communications and deciding whether to allow a particular communication to proceed, slow it down, or offer to speed it up if the author pays extra to be on the “fast lane.”