Saturday, August 19, 2006

Congress Poised to Unravel the Internet

Lured by huge checks handed out by the country's top lobbyists, members of Congress could soon strike a blow against Internet freedom as they seek to resolve the hot-button controversy over preserving "network neutrality." The telecommunications reform bill now moving through Congress threatens to be a major setback for those who hope that digital media can foster a more democratic society. The bill not only precludes net neutrality safeguards but also eliminates local community oversight of digital communications provided by cable and phone giants. It sets the stage for the privatized, consolidated and unregulated communications system that is at the core of the phone and cable lobbies' political agenda.

In both the House and Senate versions of the bill, Americans are described as "consumers" and "subscribers," not citizens deserving substantial rights when it comes to the creation and distribution of digital media. A handful of companies stand to gain incredible monopoly power from such legislation, especially AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. They have already used their political clout in Washington to secure for the phone and cable industries a stunning 98 percent control of the US residential market for high-speed Internet.

Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens, the powerful Commerce Committee chair, is trying to line up votes for his "Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act." It was Stevens who called the Internet a "series of tubes" as he tried to explain his bill. Now the subject of well-honed satirical jabs from The Daily Show, as well as dozens of independently made videos, Stevens is hunkering down to get his bill passed by the Senate when it reconvenes in September.
--
Jeffrey Chester, The NATION. Whole article here.

No comments: