TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Network Neutrality

Network Neutrality

Patrick Townson (
Thu, 20 Apr 2006 21:37:33 -0500

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: 'Network Neutrality', the concept that
everyone on the net should be given equal use of network facilities
is a very interesting concept. At first glance, I would say I agree
with it, yet the telcos, notably AT&T (SBC by its other name) and
the larger ISPs (America OnLine for example) seem to be fighting it
for various reasons. The editorial comment which follows comes from
the Move On people, who, IMO were dreadfully off-base in their
comments last week (and again today as a passing comment in this
latest piece) also seem to favor network neutrality. Quite some time
ago, I suggest that (again, IMO) the ICANN people, given their
druthers, would tend to favor 'large corporations' rather than the
small, everyday internet user. I would appreciate _your_ thoughts on
this topic of Network Neutrality, as it has come to be known. First,
here are the thoughts of the Move On people, then I will print
responses in the days to come from readers. PAT]

--------- Move On Commentary follows --------

Google, Amazon, MoveOn. All these entities are fighting back as
Congress tries to pass a law giving a few corporations the power to
end the free and open Internet as we know it.

Tell Congress to preserve the free and open Internet today.

Dear MoveOn member,

Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These
activities, plus MoveOn's online organizing ability, will be hurt if
Congress passes a radical law that gives giant corporations more
control over the Internet.

Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to
gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment. Net Neutrality
prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you
based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon doesn't have to outbid
Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.

If Net Neutrality is gutted, MoveOn either pays protection money to
dominant Internet providers or risks that online activism tools don't
work for members. Amazon and Google either pay protection money or
risk that their websites process slowly on your computer. That why
these high-tech pioneers are joining the fight to protect Network
Neutrality (1) -- and you can do your part today.

The free and open Internet is under seige-can you sign this petition
letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network
Neutrality? Click here:

Then, please forward this to three friends. Protecting the free and
open Internet is fundamental -- it affects everything. When you sign this
petition, you'll be kept informed of the next steps we can take to
keep the heat on Congress. Votes begin in a House committee next week.

MoveOn has already seen what happens when the Internet's gatekeepers
get too much control. Just last week, AOL blocked any email mentioning
a coalition that MoveOn is a part of, which opposes AOL's proposed
"email tax." (2) And last year, Canada's version of AT&T-Telus-blocked
their Internet customers from visiting a website sympathetic to
workers with whom Telus was negotiating. (3)

Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue. Many of
them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and are on the
verge of selling out to people like AT&T's CEO, who openly says, "The
internet can't be free." (4)

Together, we can let Congress know we are paying attention. We can
make sure they listen to our voices and the voices of people like Vint
Cerf, a father of the Internet and Google's "Chief Internet
Evangelist," who recently wrote this to Congress in support of
preserving Network Neutrality:

My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the
Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network
operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to
potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in
control of online activity ... Telephone companies cannot tell
consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what
people can do online.(4)

The essence of the Internet is at risk-can you sign this petition
letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network
Neutrality? Click here:

Please forward to 3 others who care about this issue. Thanks for all
you do.

-Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the Civic Action

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

P.S. If Congress abandons Network Neutrality, who will be affected?

a.. Advocacy groups like MoveOn-Political organizing could be slowed
by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to
pay "protection money" for their websites and online features to work

b.. Nonprofits-A charity's website could open at snail-speed, and online
contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can't pay dominant
Internet providers for access to "the fast lane" of Internet service.

c.. Google users-Another search engine could pay dominant Internet
providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens
faster than Google on your computer.

d.. Innovators with the "next big idea"-Startups and entrepreneurs
will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay
Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy
will be left in the "slow lane" with inferior Internet service, unable
to compete.

e.. Ipod listeners-A company like Comcast could slow access to
iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.

f.. Online purchasers-Companies could pay Internet providers to
guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with
lower prices-distorting your choice as a consumer.

g.. Small businesses and tele-commuters - When Internet companies
like AT&T favor their own services, you won't be able to choose more
affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet
phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your

h.. Parents and retirees - Your choices as a consumer could be
controlled by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred
services for online banking, health care information, sending photos,
planning vacations, etc.

i.. Bloggers-Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio
clips-silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the
hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets. To sign the petition to
Congress supporting "network neutrality," click here:

P.P.S. This excerpt from the New Yorker really sums up this issue well.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone
network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of
"tiered access" for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got
better service: their customers' calls went through immediately, were
rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn't pony
up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them
sometimes got an "all circuits busy" response. Over time, customers
gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones
that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.'s policy
turned it into a corporate kingmaker.

If you've never heard about this bit of business history, there's a
good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a
"common carriage" rule: it provided the same quality of service to
all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while "tiered
access" never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is
becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet.

Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a
de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called "network neutrality,"
which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality
was considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael
Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of the
basic rules of "Internet freedom." In the past few months, though,
companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to scuttle

In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers could receive
what BellSouth recently called "special treatment," and those that
don't could end up in the slow lane. One day, BellSouth customers may
find that, say, loads a lot faster than, and that
the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run more smoothly. Tiered
access will turn the providers into Internet gatekeepers.4


1. "Telecommunication Policy Proposed by Congress Must Recognize
Internet Neutrality," Letter to Senate leaders, March 23, 2006

2. "AOL Blocks Critics' E-Mails," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2006

3. "B.C. Civil Liberties Association Denounces Blocking of Website by
Telus," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Statement, July
27, 2005

4. "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope," BusinessWeek, November
7, 2002

5. "Net Losses," New Yorker, March 20, 2006

6. "Don't undercut Internet access," San Francisco Chronicle
editorial, April 17, 2006

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: So what are your thoughts? America
OnLine (for one) has stated they do not intend to tamper with the
existing newsgroups, etc. On this point, MoveOn was dead wrong
last week. Now, on this latest variarion on the same idea, I myself
do not know what to think. PAT]

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