Rep. Ed Markey | Washington, D.C. | April 4
The Agonist – First off, I want to thank Sean-Paul and the rest of Team Agonist for inviting me to post here today, as well as for all their hard work in promoting the important issue of network neutrality. I believe that this is a critically important issue, as it addresses a fundamental aspect of the Internet that is responsible for so much of its success: no one owns it.
Since its inception, the Internet has represented an unprecedented free market of ideas, where the quality of a thought or innovation is more closely correlated to success than the money one pays to advertise it. Sure, there are groups that have dropped millions of dollars into websites in an effort to buy their way onto our computer screens, but if the dot-com crash in the late 90’s taught us anything, it was that in the end it is the new ideas and daring innovations that drive success on the Internet, not the amount of money spent promoting flashy but vapid websites.
Sadly, some of the communications colossi and their allies in Congress are trying to change this, with an ill-conceived provision in a new telecommunications bill proposed by Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) that threatens to erect a toll booth on the information superhighway, permanently changing the fundamental nature of the Internet for the worst.
U.S. global leadership in high technology stems directly from a policy of open networks, where the owner of the telephone wire into your home or business has to be nondiscriminatory, or ”œneutral,” with respect to how it treats traffic that flows over its network. For decades, this policy has kept telecommunications networks open to all lawful uses and users, leading to a low barrier to entry for web-based content, applications, and services. The result has been remarkable innovation, economic growth, job creation, and the flourishing of remarkable new forums for discussion – such as this one – that transcend all geographic boundaries.
The Barton bill puts all of this at risk, and heightens the need for legally enforceable, so-called ”œnetwork neutrality” rules. At its core, the term ”œnetwork neutrality” ensures that a broadband network operator does not block, impair, or degrade a consumer’s ability to access any lawful Internet content, application, or service. It means being able to attach any device for use with your broadband connection, as long as it otherwise doesn’t damage service to other users. And it means nondiscriminatory treatment of communications traffic so that phone or cable companies cannot favor themselves or affiliated parties to the detriment of competitors, innovators, and independent entrepreneurs. Finally, net neutrality means that the phone companies should not be allowed to charge extra fees and warp the web into a multi-tiered network of bandwidth-haves and have-nots.
These are not hypothetical concerns. We know from public statements from several industry executives that the owners of the broadband wires into our homes would like to start charging fees to Internet content providers. This represents nothing more than the imposition of a broadband bottleneck tax on electronic commerce and political speech. Such a bottleneck tax for accessing consumers will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on investment, innovation, and the democratic process.
In short, the Barton bill imperils the future of electronic commerce and innovation to the ”˜world wide whims’ of broadband barons, and ties the hands of the FCC in a way that will legally prevent it from saving something very special. This attack on the Internet as we know it will come as an unpleasant shock to the millions of Americans who depend on the Internet to surf and learn and do business and invent our way into the future.
It is critical that we work to ensure that the Internet is not fundamentally changed by this misguided bill, and I plan to do all I can to raise awareness of this critically important topic. I invite anyone with an interest in keeping the Internet free and open to innovation to keep an eye on the Net Neutrality section of my website, where we will have frequent updates on the status of this bill along with video from related hearings and markups.
The next round begins at 5pm tonight with opening statements from the members of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, so be sure to stay tuned.
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