First skirmish in the War over Internet Democracy
Saturday, May 27, 2006
If the phone and cable companies get their way, it will take you five minutes to download this blog. In fact, you can forget blogs altogether. In fact, you can forget anything put into the Internet by small guys like me (literally and figuratively).
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee did the right thing and approved a bill to preserve net neutrality. But that’s only the first skirmish in a big battle. It’s only one committee among many committees battling for jurisdiction over this hot potato. I’m told the phone and cable guys are just gearing up.
Look, a basic principle of the Internet has been that these guys can’t disciminate among content providers. Everyone who puts stuff up on the Internet is treated exactly the same. But the phone and cable companies want to charge content providers depending on how fast and reliably their content is delivered — so, say, eBay, Yahoo, and Google pay a bundle for first-class fast service while you and I and the other millions of small guys who want to put stuff up are shoved into the slowest of slow lanes because we can’t afford to pay the freight. Phone and cable say unless they start charging more for speed and reliability, they won’t have enough money to invest in the next generation of networks. That’s absolute crap. They’re already making loads of money off consumers who pay them for being connected to the Internet. They just want to make more money.
This isn’t just economics. The Internet is the one last place where someone without resources but with grains and guts and information can skewer the high and mighty. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the Internet one of the last bastions of real democracy. At a time in our nation’s history when wealth and power are becoming more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, it’s been the one forum where all voices are equal.
I’m told that the phone and cable guys are now busy trying to persuade eBay, Google, Yahoo, and the big financial services companies it’s in their interest to pay for faster and more reliable service. Verizon’s chief Washington lobbyist recently warned the financial services industry that if it supports net neutrality it won’t get the sophisticated data links it will need in the future. Phone and cable are also quietly reassuring the big content guys they can pass along the extra fees to their customers. And they’re trying to scare consumers into thinking their monthly Internet bills will go sky-high unless phone and cable are allowed to charge more to the big content providers.
Watch this one.