Big phone and cable companies must be cringing. After all, their hopes for controlling the Internet are dwindling.
Last week, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Julius Genachowski, committed to enforcing “Net Neutrality”—the public interest principle that prevents Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast from blocking or slowing Web sites, e-mails, and online content.
Genachowski told The Hill.com: “One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support Net Neutrality and will enforce any violation of Net Neutrality principles.”
Net Neutrality ensures that the Internet operates as an open platform where people can consume and create their own content, all of which will travel at the same speed. Internet service providers (ISPs) are lobbying to be allowed to become Internet gatekeepers, allowing some Web users to pay to get their content to travel more quickly than other content. They also want to have the discretion to block or slow content they don’t like—either because it’s politically controversial or because it competes with their own Web sites and services.
Without Net Neutrality, the open Internet that we know today would cease to exist. Last month, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, a bill that would safeguard Net Neutrality on all networks.
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The FCC is a key agency in the regulation and enforcement of communications policy. Chairman Genachowski’s statement, aimed at the entire industry, comes after Comcast was sanctioned by the FCC in 2008 for actively interfering with users' ability to access popular and lawful video, photo, and music file-sharing applications.
The sanction will test the FCC’s regulatory authority. Comcast denies that blocking users threatens the free flow of information. In its appeal of the FCC sanctions, Comcast claims that the agency lacks the legal authority to act against ISPs that block content.
Comcast isn’t the only ISP fighting against Net Neutrality. Big phone and cable companies have spent tens of millions of dollars to lobby against any efforts to protect the Internet. Over the past six months alone, they’ve flooded Washington with 500 lobbyists to kill the Net Neutrality bill.
Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast have also funneled money to fake grassroots organizations, which are mobilizing against Net Neutrality “in the public’s interest” but with industry money.
But while the ISPs are scrambling to drown out Net Neutrality, the public is clamoring for it. More than 1.5 million people have come out in support of a free-flowing Internet, and more people are joining the campaign every day. The grassroots fight for Net Neutrality began growing in 2006 when a similar bill was introduced in Congress. Over the last three years, thousands of people have been lobbying their lawmakers, sharing their personal stories about why Net Neutrality is essential to their lives.