Monday, July 23

Preserving Freedom: Net Neutrality

According to Ghost In The Machine, written by Sharon Herbert, more than 29,000 comments were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since it opened an inquiry into net neutrality. An additional 670 comments were filed by groups and individual Internet users on the deadline, July 16.

So is that it? Theresa Hall reminds BlogCatalog members that’s not it. She wrote U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) with her views that Internet service providers should not be allowed to discriminate by speeding up or slowing down access to Web content based on its source, ownership, or destination.

How did the senator respond?

I understand your concern that the Internet should not favor certain content or services over others. I believe that the Internet is not only an important tool, but a vital resource. It has allowed millions of Americans to communicate instantly with people around the world. It has put access to libraries of information at everyone's fingertips. The use of the Internet continues to grow, and the ways we use it continue to expand. Your views on network neutrality will be very helpful to me as Congress considers this issue.

As someone who frequently works in political arenas, I might point out that Sen. Mikulski's response is largely neutral, demonstrating little movement from her position last year. This is surprising to me, given Maryland state legislators acted on their own to put a mandate into place.

So what is this all really about? Some, like the New York Times, suggest it has to do with Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and others always being afraid of the competition, which is why iPhone is only available from one carrier (in Europe, you can change carriers any time regardless of the phone you want). In the years ahead, that competition is likely to include companies like Skype and Google, which have called on the FCC to open up more equipment and software options in the wireless industry. In fact, Google is looking for another leap forward with a wireless spectrum in which chunks of radio frequency currently used for analog TV would be freed up by a switch to digital.

Regardless of this behind-the-scenes wrangling, however, the real stake holders in net neutrality are people like you and me because we funded its creation with a combination of tax dollars and subscription fees. Without net neutrality, Internet carriers would very feasibly be able to control content on the Internet by favoring those sites willing to pony up cash for the carrier; or, as they have with mobile phones, lock up technologies so they can be exclusive providers; or create steeper tier systems similar to cable programming; or, quite possibly enforce net censorship.

I suggest, as always, education is the key to understanding. Catch the entertaining video version on YouTube, keep up to date by visiting sites like, and write U.S. senators and representatives in your state so you have a better understanding of their positions.

In fact, I am doing the latter today and I'll be happy to share their responses in the days ahead. Good night and good luck.



Chaffee Street Cafe` on 7/23/07, 10:08 AM said...

Thank you for your beatifully written post today.

You would think with all the Bloggers out here that more would show their concern about their own possible demise on the Internet. Maybe censorship would be implemented and what if we no longer had freedom of speech, via our written words?

I am weary of the big corporation's greed. They want to control everything. To them it is a game of their own making and view it like a football game, for want of a better analogy.

All these telephone companies are really "MA BELL" and they are: BELL, BELL SOUTH, VERIZON, LUCENT, TYCO, AT&T, CINGULAR, AVAYA.
This is a monopoly.

"Sleeping Kitten - Dancing Dog!"

Rich on 7/23/07, 11:28 AM said...


Don't despair over the apparent apathy of some bloggers; such as it is with virtually any issue.

If you recall, I once likened it to a bell curve, with 10 percent of "for" and "against" wignuts on either side. If you only move 5 percent of the 80 percent in the middle, you will change Congress.

I will say though that not all corporations are greedy (we tend to forget that they are just collections of people); some have a more altruistic view of the world. Hey, come to think of it, my corporation resembles the latter ... hmmm... I'm not sure how I feel about that all the time. j/k ;)

All my best,

Sharon E. Herbert on 7/23/07, 1:53 PM said...

Thank you for continuing the dialogue on this issue, Rich (and thank you for the link too). Part of the problem with this issue is confusion about what "net neutrality" actually means. The term has been co-opted by both sides of the argument, with some people thinking net neutrality means "leave well enough alone". We've had several examples in Canada where telcoms have proven that they will use their power to block (i.e. censor) sites they don't want us to see, so I'm advocating in Canada for clear legislation to preserve neutrality, which means ensuring that telcoms and other service providers don't play favourites by blocking,slowing or charging for preferred access.

Ghosts in the Machine

Rich on 7/23/07, 2:22 PM said...

Hi Sharon,

The thanks remains with you, especially in light of this information. Excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea that telcoms in Canada had taken to blocking sites. That is certainly something I would like to learn more about.

While I am not certain our telcoms would censor to prevent users from seeing certain information (or they would be entering the content industry as opposed to being carriers), I do see the potential for blocking technologies as we see with cell phones in the United States, eg. in order to purchase a iPhone, I have to make a carrier decision as well.

All my best,

Rich on 7/24/07, 12:48 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

The chief US telecommunications regulator on Tuesday turned his back on Google's call for new rules to open up part of the US wireless spectrum, making it far less likely that the company will bid for spectrum itself in a coming auction. — MSNBC


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