Fearing that additional charges on Internet access would greatly harm free growth and access to the Internet, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced yesterday his intention to place a "hold" on legislation (passed yesterday out of the Senate Commerce Committee) that could allow such charges.
Wyden explained his strong opposition to the telecommunications legislation, which contains a provision corroding equal access to the Internet, this way: "Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse. This one provision threatens to divide the Internet into technology 'haves' and 'have nots.' This one provision concentrates even more power in the hands of the special interests that own the pipelines to the Internet. This one provision codifies discrimination on the Internet by a handful of large telecommunications and cable providers. This one provision will allow large, special interests to saddle consumers and small businesses alike with new and discriminatory fees over and above what they already pay for Internet access. This one small provision is akin to hurling a giant wrecking ball at the Internet."
Called by some an "Internet Tax," the ability to charge for different levels of speed and service would be a boon to certain telecommunications companies such as Verizon and Qwest, while causing distress among Internet-based companies such as Ebay and Amazon, and a wide assortment of organizations (such as CUB) who use the Internet as a vital communication tool. (According to the Oregonian's David Sarasohn, groups like the Christian Coalition are with Wyden on this issue, because they rely on the Internet to communicate with their many members.)
According to the San Francisco Chronicle (06/29/06): "The debate over net neutrality has become a civil war of sorts in the technology industry. Web content companies, high-tech firms and grassroots groups had hoped to persuade lawmakers to order the Federal Communications Commission to write regulations that would prevent phone and cable companies from levying additional charges on content providers to assure speedier delivery of Internet traffic."
CUB supports the strong stand that Sen. Wyden has taken on protecting net neutrality. As he stated in his floor speech yesterday: "The Internet has thrived precisely because it is neutral. It has thrived because consumers, and not some giant cable or phone company, get to choose what they want to see and how quickly they get to see it. I am not going to allow a bill to go forward that is going to end surfing the web free of discrimination."
Telecommunications services are fast becoming one of the cornerstones of American civic and financial life, and the Internet is the superhighway of our current telecommunications system. We can't afford to stand by as equal and free access to the Internet is eroded. Good work, Sen. Wyden!
Two notes to end this piece: Our legislators need to hear from you on issues that you consider important. You can find both Oregon Senators on the web: Sen. Ron Wyden at link to wyden.senate.gov . The Capitol Switchboard at (800) 459-1887 is also effective. Even a few calls on an issue raises the profile, but a few dozen calls really pulls the issue into the forefront.
Finally, you may have friends and associates who use the Internet, who value the Internet, and who may not know the changes that are being planned for the Internet by telecomm corporations. Please send this message on to them today.