Saturday, April 22, 2006

MoveOn.org and Net Neutrality

The following email hit my desk two days ago. It is reason for great concern, I believe.

Because of the overall length of this document, I pasted the latter portion of the letter as a comment to this entry (it's the PS, the PPS, and the Sources).

Doc


From: Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org Civic Action [mailto:moveon-help@list.moveon.org]
Sent: Thursday, April 20, 2006 5:15 PM
Subject: Congress is selling out the Internet

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.com 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 Neutrality1—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:

http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7355-5713753-T2.v_8n48nanmAisc0MgDQ&t=4

Then, please forward this to 3 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:

http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7355-5713753-T2.v_8n48nanmAisc0MgDQ&t=5

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

–Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the MoveOn.org Civic Action team
Thursday, April 20th, 2006

12 comments:

DocTorDee said...

MoveOn.org and Net Neutrality (continued)...

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

* 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 correctly.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* Ipod listeners—A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
* 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.
* 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 office.
* 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.
* 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:
http://www.civic.moveon.org/save_the_internet/?id=7355-5713753-T2.v_8n48nanmAisc0MgDQ&t=6

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 it. 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, NBC.com loads a lot faster than YouTube.com, and that the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run more smoothly. Tiered access will turn the providers into Internet gatekeepers.4

Sources:

1. "Telecommunication Policy Proposed by Congress Must Recognize Internet Neutrality," Letter to Senate leaders, March 23, 2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1653

2. "AOL Blocks Critics' E-Mails," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1649

3. "B.C. Civil Liberties Association Denounces Blocking of Website by Telus," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Statement, July 27, 2005
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1650

4. "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope," BusinessWeek, November 7, 2002
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1648

5. "Net Losses," New Yorker, March 20, 2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1646

6. "Don't undercut Internet access," San Francisco Chronicle editorial, April 17, 2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1645

DocTorDee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DocTorDee said...

Visit the Wikipedia entry on Network Neutrality for a balanced viewpoint.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_neutrality

DDDDDDDDDD

Ralph said...

doctrodee:
While this seems like a good cause, something about this doesn't ring right. Maybe it's the hoakey, "please forward this to three people" part. It's been my experience that (without exception) any e-mail that asks you to forward it to a specific group of people is pure garbage. What do you think?

DocTorDee said...

So, you're saying that the idea of educating people about the concept of network neutrality is "pure garbage"? Hmmm, and I thought part of your earthly mission was to educate people about technology.

As for the tenor of the document, I admit it's clearly biased. It's a kind of breathless rant, but it does raise some good points on the influence of money and power over the lives of US citizens, dont'cha think?

Basically, I think it's important to make people realize how "power" is being consolidated within the United States and worldwide. The regulations that control media licensing have been relaxed to the point where one business can bring you all the content you hear on all of your local radio stations radio.

In addition, Global conglomerates have purchased and currently control so many businesses that "competition" is increasingly becoming a thing of the past...it's all controlled.

And don't discount the power of business influence: Our current president was "brought to you" by Exxon/Mobil and Halliburton (along with other companies who saw him as the CEO-in-Charge). When this happens, we don't get excellence, we get special-interest mediocrity.

And I don't completely understand why the request to "email this to three people" immediately makes it "pure garbage". I could see your point if the number were ten. But aren't there legitimate causes out there that want to spread their message by word of mouth (email)?

I plan to do a more complete entry on global business conglomeration sometime in the future. If I forget, please remind me.

Have a great Sunday!

Doc

Ralph said...

Global business conglomeration is an interesting concept. I guess, it's kind of like today's empire building. However, the thing about empires is that they always fall eventually. I think blogging, for instance, has done a great job keeping the national media in check. Business conglomeration may be the Yang, but there will always be a Ying to keep it in check... which brings me back to the MoveOn.org e-mail. I guess I assume someone sending out such a message as some level of respect for the intelligence of their audience and therefore should not make such as base and low-level request as, please pass this on to three people. It gives it the effect of a chain letter - and I find chain letters detestable. Doesn't the author realize that if there readers really feel they need to pass something on, they will. Like the way you posted it on this blog. Of course, that gets me to thinking. Maybe, it was some neo-con that added that part to the end to descredit the message. Because it certainly was a Yang line in an otherwise Ying-like message. What do you think?

Cheers.

Ralph

DocTorDee said...

I think that you are old and jaded, which is okay...so am I.

I think the people that put this email together--and the energy behind the MoveOn.Org movement--are younger and more filled with youthful optimism. For them, this is a cause that can change the world, whereas you or I might see the larger patterns that cannot necessarily be altered, even willfully.

I think the "email this to three friends" might be within the allowable etiquette of the upcoming generation; whereas you and I might see it as childish: "Why not let the message stand on its own?" the old codger asked.

What was it that Churchill said, "If you're not Liberal when you're young, you have no heart. If you're not Conservative by the time you're forty, you have no mind." ...something to that effect.

I'm kinda bummed that nobody else has chimed in on this. People are slaves to technology, but often have no idea how the technology is governed.

One final point: I have no affiliation or particular sympathy with MoveOn.org. Actually, I'm prepared to investigate the organization further to find out what makes it tick.

Ciao,

DocTorrrr

DocTorDee said...

Eli Pariser, one of the guys who signed the document, is 22 years old.

The others are Adam Green and Noah Winer. Haven't been able to detect their DOBs yet.

MoveOn.org is run by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Blades was involved with the AfterDark screensaver program, which was wildly popular in the 1990s.

She sold the company for $13.8 million and moved into the 501c game.

So, even though the people that run the organization are older, they allow the enthusiams of the more youthful members to push it forward.

DDDDD

Stan Langerhaus said...

A couple of things about "net neutrality."

As with most issues there are legitimate considerations on both sides. I will speak briefly for the side of the facility owners, i.e. AT&T and the cable operators.

The idea of a tiered system comes from the industry's belief that there are content providers who are clogging up their systems (which they built at their cost) with bandwidth consumi ng applications (i.e. Xbox live). The analogy is something akin to someone building a toll road and being ordered to charging each vehicle no more than $1 per trip. That is fine when everybody using it is sedan. But eventually, let's say a grocery superstore is built on the toll road and suddenly there is an endless stream of semis on the toll road. Now the toll road is being overused/stressed and further, the grocery store is making a killing on the per-semi toll road transportation charges.

Obviously, this analogy is not a perfect fit for the complexity of the net neutrality issue. But I offer it to show that the content providers know that they have a bargain basement deal and will stress policy fears in order to preserve it.

What the public should be most angry about is the obscenely high cost of internet access in America. Most industrialized countries virtually give away internet access (or megabyte capacity, if you will) as part of being a citizen of the country. I have read news articles that discuss how you can a trans-european or japanese train or car ride for hundreds of miles and never lose connectivity on a FREE SERVICE.

Now, why do we not have that in the US? Well, facility owners have bought legislators to prevent municipally owned and offered internet access. In PA, we have what is called ACT 183, which has in fact outlawed a muncipalities' attempt to build a public service internet facility. Chief lobbyists for that bill were Verizon/Comcast. (By the way, did you see that Gov. Rendell gets $15K per year from Comcast for some kind of after sports events commentary services?) One of the few times those competitors were able to see eye to eye on a subject.

So what is the point? Get out and vote for the cause you believe in. I personally have come to believe that the grassroots cleansweep.com thing is a good idea.

Ralph said...

Stan:

Thanks for the insights. As for the grass roots thing, yes, I'm in favor of it (read my post from earlier today -which incidentally was very slow to show up on the site, it took like half a day before I could "publish it," perhaps it had to do with the juxtapostion of Bush and foot, but I think based on several experiences, there is some sort of monitoring go on on these blogs.) Also, I believe MoveOn started as a grass roots effort, but perhaps it is now being subsumed by The Man and the grass rooters need to move on themselves...

DocTorDee said...

Bush and foot? Hahahahaha...

Ralph said...

I think I meant fool...