Monday, April 24, 2006

The Fight For Net Neutrality

There's a fight brewing in Congress right now that affects all of us who provide content over the Internet and those of us who depend on that content. Telecommunications companies are trying to destroy the principle of "network neutrality" -- the idea that all network packets are created equal. The Coalition launched their website this weekend and is making an effort to turn net neutrality from idea to law.

The concept of network neutrality is explained in this two-minute video. The concept is simple -- supporters of net neutrality want all content that's sent over the Internet treated the same. Telecom companies are against this because they want to be able to sell access to the Internet above and beyond bandwidth charges and connection fees. They want to be able to charge extra for faster service, and to be allowed to choke off their competitors' products by slowing them down to the point where they're unusable. Put another way, if telecom companies are able to pick and choose who is able to connect to what services, they will effectively own the Internet and be able to dictate who uses it and for what.

Matt Stoller over at MyDD has a great rundown this morning of the various players in the fight and the stakes we're facing.

Our own Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) has been out front on this issue. His amendment to the telecom bill that would codify net neutrality was voted down earlier this month. Salon also had a featured article on net neutrality last week that is worth reading, even if you have to view an ad first.

We can't let Congress give the Internet away to the telecommunications companies. It's too important to let Comcast, Verizon and AT&T dictate how we all can communicate with each other.

Update: Dan Kennedy also has a detailed post on the threat to the Internet.