April 24, 2006 12:15 PM PDT

New group aims to 'save the Internet'

Days before a congressional committee is set to vote on an overhaul of the nation's telecommunications policy, a broad coalition of media, consumer and Internet groups has organized behind a dramatic tagline: "Save the Internet."

Dozens of organizations ranging from the conservative-to-libertarian Gun Owners of America to the liberal group Moveon.org to the American Library Association, have just launched a Web site under the "Save the Internet" banner. During a Monday press conference call, supporters of the newly minted group at times adopted the tone of a pep rally.

"The fight for Internet freedom is now being waged in earnest," said Tim Karr, campaign director for Free Press, a media reform organization that opposes large media companies and organized the coalition. "On one side you have the public...on the other side you have the nation's largest telephone and cable companies, who have aligned with some in Congress to strip the Internet of the First Amendment."

At issue is a concept known as Net neutrality, also called network neutrality. It's a philosophy supported by Internet content providers such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com that would prohibit broadband providers from prioritizing certain types of Web traffic--such as streaming video or their own preferred content.

Large telephone and cable companies have argued against the need to put such principles into law, saying they're not interested in blocking sites or services but deserve the right to charge extra for such a "fast lane" to make their investments in bandwidth-hogging services and new technologies economically viable. Broadband providers have been spending billions to run fiber or faster links to American homes and businesses.

The latest version of a telecommunications reform bill, expected to go to a full committee vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee this week, doesn't go far enough to ensure Net neutrality provisions, the Save the Internet coalition claims.

At an initial vote on that bill just before Congress' spring recess, a quartet of Democrats failed to secure passage of an amendment that said any content provider must be awarded bandwidth "with equivalent or better capability than the provider extends to itself or affiliated parties, and without the imposition of any charge." The Save the Internet Coalition said it hoped such an amendment would be more successful at the upcoming vote.

The current bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to vet all complaints of violations of the FCC's own Net neutrality principles within 90 days. It would also give the FCC the power to levy fines of up to $500,000 per violation.

The bill also contained explicit language denying the FCC the authority to make new rules on Net neutrality. Democrats and Net neutrality supporters have charged that lack of enforcement power would mean the FCC would be unable to deal with the topic flexibly.

The FCC's broad principles, which appeared in a document released last summer, don't protect against the kind of discrimination that Internet content providers fear could take hold, said Gigi Sohn, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge. Those principles say that consumers should be able to access lawful content and run applications of their choice and connect whichever lawful devices they wish to the networks they use.

"You could have a system where I might be able to get my Vonage service but because Verizon has its own voice over Internet protocol service, they may degrade my Vonage service," she said. "So technically I could get a degraded Vonage service, still in keeping with principles, but I'm accessing a degraded service, and that's why a non-discrimination principle must be put in the law."

Companies like Verizon and politicians siding with them have argued that such concerns are largely hypothetical and that preemptive regulation would cause an undue burden as they make expensive investments in new, more advanced networks. At its Web site, the Save the Internet Coalition lists four examples of what it deemed discrimination by Internet service providers, though two of those examples occurred at the hands of Canadian providers, which arguably wouldn't face any repercussions from any new U.S. law.

Other critics of preemptive federal legislation have suggested that Net neutrality rules would give the FCC far too much power to regulate the Internet and micromanage what kind of network arrangements are permitted or not.

But even the specter of such discrimination is enough to warrant concern, said Craig Newmark, founder of the popular Craigslist classified site. "According to line workers I speak to at big telcos, the companies would use these new privileges to hurt the little guys," he told reporters on Monday's conference call, "and I don't think that should happen."

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14 comments

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Why would we want more policing?
The 'net neutrality proponents are severely misguided. The current state of the net is that there are no inhibitions on architecture or protocols.

The neutrality folks want to give the government new powers to say what can and can't be done on the 'net. It is the opposite of what has brought us this far, even if it sounds well-intended. Please don't believe the hype.

More here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.onlyrepublican.com/orinsf/net_neutrality_and_municipal_wifi/" target="_newWindow">http://www.onlyrepublican.com/orinsf/net_neutrality_and_municipal_wifi/</a>
Posted by ORinSF (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You must be a lobbyist
It is not misguided to ensure net neutrality. Verizon already tries to cripple bluetooth functionality in their phones to make sure we use their network bandwidth for sending pictures and files.

Some cable companies have already tried to disable Vonage phone service to promote their own service.

These companies are charging us for the bandwidth. We should be able to use our bandwidth for whatever legal use that we want.

Google, Craigslist, Yahoo and others already pay substantial sums for their bandwidth. I should be able to get their services as fast as possible. Without net neutrality, Cable Companies and Telcos will be legally allowed to "Extort" money from everyone to get the speeds they already have (and have already payed for) today.

Those with new ideas will have a new barrier to entry to the marketplace. They will have to pay extortion to get access. This is anticompetitive and should be stopped.

Just my thoughts!
Posted by across04 (18 comments )
Link Flag
Let the market decide
The last thing we need is more government regulations on the internet.

If some company is not providing what you need, let them know. If that fails, let everyone know and then look for alternatives.

Bringing in the government will just add a layer of red tape and give them more excuse to sift through company records. In the end it will cost us all a lot more.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Here's why we need more policing...
1) Internet godfathers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn have both said that if you tier the Internet, well, you don't have the Internet anymore. I think I'd weigh their opinions a bit more than the telcos' lobbyists.

2) The Internet2 backbone has no tiering -- and delivers HD and other real-time streams perfectly.

3) Cisco's Service Exchange Framework appears expressly designed to filter, degrade, monitor, and control third-party traffic transiting a carrier's network.

4) The carriers won't answer the simple question, "will you perform deep-packet inspection on customers' traffic?" Their failure to answer this question says it all.

5) Innovation is occurring at layers 4-7 (Google, eBay, Amazon, Skype). Someone should explain how erecting tollbooths on the Internet will spur innovation.

Great explanation here, entitled "Network Neutrality is not an optional feature of the Internet":

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://gigaom.com/2006/02/06/net-neutrality-not-an-optional-feature-of-internet/" target="_newWindow">http://gigaom.com/2006/02/06/net-neutrality-not-an-optional-feature-of-internet/</a>

And you can see a hypothetical telco ad from the future -- a future without network neutrality -- here:

directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/02/end-of-internet-another-fantastic-deal.html

Contact Congress and make your voice heard.
Posted by MercilessUnicorn (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All well and good
But the FCC is full of hacks. They don't need any more power. They need to be reigned in to do only their original task, assigning Radio Frequencies. They are currently an overly political collection of power hungry career polititians who need to be put out of work. Insure net neutrality via law if you must but keep the FCC as far away as possible.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
New group aims to 'save the Internet'
Google and all the other data providers should receive a stipend from the carriers. These content providers are the ones that are responsible for the very existance of the carriers. Without the content the carriers would not want or need to build bigger or faster media to carry all that data they have the privledge to charge a fee for. The charge them for the bandwidth they use they charge users to carry it to them. The content providers are what drive me to the network to begin with.
Posted by Paninteas (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
quite possible, excellent point
If we leave the market to develop freely, that's entirely possible. Neutrality advocates are assuming that the carriers have the power. In a few years, those same carriers may be begging Google for their content. It's another reason we shouldn't try to legislate now...
Posted by ORinSF (57 comments )
Link Flag
Oy, it's a trifecta! The gov't should get it over with and...
..kill the internet off once and for all... this IS appearently what they want to do, with this ontop of Gosalez's porn squad demands and data retention, and Lamar's "IP" legislation, all in the same week, it seems to me more than ever, the GOP's true agenda is to swiftly, but quietly, kill off the internet, and any voice of opposition to them. Very Orwellian. It's been a long time in coming, I guess, but I don't get how people can't see the writing on the wall. Vote for these people, and they will get rid of all forms of expressions in the quickest time possible.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ok then, so who?
If the goverment shouldn't regulate ISP's to prevent abuse, then who should?

The problem lies in that huge corporations have influence over their customers that can rival a small goverment.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for smaller goverment, but somone needs to keep the big corporations in line and keep them from abusing their power.

What if a company such as Exxon came in and said "we're going to charge consumers more money for gas simply because it costs more to ship forign oil over here". This would cause the price of gas to go up and hurt consumers.

What would you do then? Go to another gas station right? Well, what if there are only 2 or 3 gas stations in town and they all buy their gas from Exxon?

That's a lot like what's going on with ISP's. In most major towns, there might be only 1 or 2 broadband ISPs availiable depending on where you live in that town.

Lets say, for the sake of argument, that both ISPs offer their own VOIP service. Without "net neutrality" they could allocate more bandwidth to their VOIP services and therefore reduce the bandwidth availible for your exsitng VOIP service.
This would degrade the quality of your existing VOIP service, essentially making you switch over to theirs (and perhaps pay more money) to get a good, reliable VOIP service.
Posted by rderveloy (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
um. Sorry but I'm confused re your Exxon example.
Exxon is a 'for profit' company. If their costs go up (as in your example of it costing them more to ship it to this country), then why would they not pass that cost along to the consumer? They aren't the Red Cross! They are a government owned entity that survives on the backs on tax payers to provide you with low cost gas! They invested what they did so they could make money! What you say makes no sense to me unless you truly don't understant economics or believe that we're already a communist country and Obama already does run everything.
Now, moving on to the Telco companies, they spend billions of dollars installing infrastructure (they are the guys who laid all of those cables outside of your house, and put up those dishes and pay for those satelites.) They invested. They didn't do it for YOU, they did it as an investment. Why should they not be able to recoup their investment? Don't get me wrong, I thing they are all thieves. But I would much rather deal with them than deal with a government takeover of private industry "for the good of the people". That always means "the taxpayers will foot the bill, and the government will tell you what you can and can't do with it". And if you think there's a risk with private companies deciding what you can and can't do on the Internet, take a good look at China. Take a good look at Venezuala. Take a good look at Iran. And repeat after me: the government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it away".....
Posted by frommycolddeadhands (1 comment )
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