"Unbeknownst to most people, the [telecom] conglomerates are making an outrageous power play in Washington to make themselves the arbiters of internet content. Using their role as 'service' connectors, they are effectively trying to squeeze non-corporate, non-wealthy voices off of the worldwide web.
"The whole idea of the internet is that it's a wide-open, wildly-democratic place where anyone and everyone can 'meet' to exchange viewpoints, ideas, facts, ideologies, theories, videos, opinions, stories, visions--and, yes, propaganda, nonsense, ugliness, and outright lies. The internet's beauty is in its free-flowing, uncensored, uncontrolled nature. No one should be allowed to control the flow of legal content that makes up this rich public discourse--not governments, not media barons, not special interests, nor any other intermediary. Instead, ordinary people get a full range of information from the internet and decide for themselves what is 'true' and valuable. That's democracy in action."However, to participate, you must first plug into this worldwide digital network. Hooking us up is a rather mundane mechanical task--but it has become the point at which the spark of internet democracy is confronting the stifling power of corporate autocracy. In the US, the plugging-in process has been entrusted to private, for-profit 'internet service providers' (ISP's), an industry now in the firm grasp of just four telephone and cable giants: AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon. This cabal of special interests controls 94 percent of the national ISP market, and the monopolistic group is now asserting its market dominance and political muscle in an autocratic effort to impose corporate censorship over what information the public will be allowed to get via the internet."
The rest of that article can be read online only by paid Hightower Lowdown subscribers (like me). But I don't think Jim and Phillip will mind if I quote a few more points that I found to be particularly enlightening:
"On the net, you get access to any and every website on an equal basis. A behemoth like Time Warner puts its content there for you to view, but so does a myriad of voices with names like Tiny Warbler. At present, anyone who puts up a web page (including us here at the Lowdown, www.hightowerlowdown.org) is treated equally in the system, allowing millions of people around the globe to have their say. This freedom exists because the internet is a neutral mechanism, making no judgment about whose content is superior or deserving of special treatment."If the big telecom companies have their way, however, they will destroy the neutrality of the Internet. They want to establish themselves as gatekeepers who will give privileged treatment to users who will pay a premium to have their content go out on the net.
What does this mean for those of us who don't have money?
Folks, this is serious. If we want to protect the Internet, if we want it to remain available to everyone on an equal footing, we must join the fight to protect Net Neutrality."The smaller, poorer, non-establishment communities on the web are to be shunted off to the slow lane, or not even allowed on the system at all."
Here are some ways you can get involved:
Sign the Emergency Petition to Google: Don't be evil -- stand up for the free and open Internet. The New York Times has reported that Google is days away from announcing a deal with Verizon that would end Net Neutrality (and the free and open Internet) as we know it. We can't let big corporations take control of the Internet -- sign the letter to Google pressuring them to back out of this deal.
Join "Save the Internet" (www.savetheinternet.com)
Join Freepress.net (www.freepress.net)
These sites will give you more information and show you how to take action on this issue. This is a vital matter to everyone who has a blog or a web page and doesn't want a phone or cable company deciding whether other people get to access it.