The internet is the last bastion of media freedom. The internet will soon constitute the major way that individuals obtain their news and information. The internet is immediate, detailed and unlike the mainstream media, it is completely uncensored, until now. The internet will remain uncensored until sometime in the next two months, with the support of the lame duck Congress, the nation's largest telephone and cable companies (e.g., A. T. & T., Verizon, AOL Time Warner and Comcast) will have successfully positioned themselves to be the guardians of the internet. These entities are lobbying the Senate for the power to decide which Web site will go fast, go slow or will not load at all. Phone and cable companies have spent more than $100 million on lobbyists, Astroturf groups, political campaigns and public relations firms. In support of this greedy power play, the House of Representatives has passed a major overhaul of the Telecommunications Act in which Congressional campaign coffers are quickly filling up with donations designed to get their favorite Congressmen re-elected. All that is left for this to become a legal reality is for the Senate to pass this legislation in November or December of 2006.
On October 18th, award winning journalist, Bill Moyers, hosted a PBS documentary describing this threat to the most democratic media practice in America, the internet. "Our new digital monopolists want to use their new power to reverse the way the Internet now works for us: allowing those with the largest bankrolls to route their content on fast lanes, while placing others in a congested thoroughfare," Moyers states. "If they succeed in taking a medium that has an essential democratic nature and monetizing every aspect of it, America will divide further between the rich and poor and between those who have access to knowledge and those who do not."
In June of 2006, The House of Representatives passed the Communications Opportunity, Promotion Act of 2006. The bill does not protect net neutrality. The Senate remains the last hope to save the internet as a safe haven for first amendment rights. Fortunately, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has stated that he will place a hold on the legislation if the bill is not revised to prevent discrimination on the internet. Arizona figures to be a key player in this debate. One senator, John McCain, is a bona fide presidential candidate. Arizona's "junior" senator, Jon Kyl, is in line to become the Senate's Majority Whip should the Republicans retain control of the Senate after the midterm elections. So, just where do the two Arizona Senators stand on the issue of net neutrality? John McCain is firmly opposed to protecting freedom of the internet and is firmly rooted in the camp of the cable companies. Jon Kyl, given his 16 point lead over Democratic rival, Jim Pederson, is fearful to take a stand in an election year. Therefore, Kyl has not taken a position on this issue. Given the fact that Kyl has voted for every piece of unconstitutional legislation (Patriot Acts I and II, the Detainee Bill, etc.) to come out of the Bush Administration, it is not hard to guess where the Senator's allegiances lie in this area. On the oft chance that McCain and Kyl actually would consider your position on this subject here are the numbers to their political offices; John McCain (202-224-2235) and Jon Kyl (202-224-4521). With seemingly every entity for sale, under the auspices of the government, isn't interesting that both of Arizona's Senators are named John?
The history of net neutrality is not new and has been the subject of continual dialogue. For example, William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta's BellSouth Corporation stated in December of 2005, that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be able to "charge Yahoo for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google…"(1).
Amazon.com., eBay, Google and IAC/InterActive Corp have lobbied Congress to block attempts from private groups to secure control of the internet from private corporations because this legislation spells doom for their bottom line.
In the beginning days of the telephone revolution, A. T. & T developed a policy of stair-stepped access for businesses. The companies which paid an extra fee would have received better service for their honorarium and their calls would be processed more expeditiously. The rest of us, not being able to afford the protection money, would have received messages telling us that all circuits are busy. Fortunately, this never happened as A. T. & T. was bound by the common carriage laws enacted by Federal Communications Corporation (FCC) (2).
Initially, the internet was bound by the same common carriage rules as the phone companies. The concept of net neutrality, once favored by the FCC, is now under attack by BellSouth and A. T. & T and their stair-stepped access plans. Stair-stepped access will undoubtedly turn the ISP's into gatekeepers for these government supported "sacred cow" corporations who will ultimately spend enough lobbying money to convince Congress to turn the internet into a safe haven for private, special interests. Under proposed Congressional legislation, A. T. & T. would have the right to charge differential rates to preferred companies for differential internet speeds and bandwidth. The internet gatekeepers and their subsidiaries would experience an unimpeded commute on the HOV lane of the internet. Meanwhile, the rest of us would be stuck in traffic and never reach our destination.
The effect on small business owners will be devastating. The internet has long provided a more level playing field for the mid-size businesses that, without the internet, would face insurmountable costs associated with marketing and advertising. What would be the net effect of the proposed legislation? Faced with the proposed government sponsored extortion of high internet access prices for normal access speeds, the mid-size businesses will not be able to compete with the corporate giants and you, the consumer, will have less choice and pay much higher prices.
When tax rates are increased, I often wonder what group of the "new money" interests, the "old money forces" are trying to attack. The elimination of competition is paramount in today's dog-eat-dog corporate world as is manipulating the powers of government to act as a broker for preferred, special interests. In the early days of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller obtained rebates for his large shipments of crude oil, while his competitors were not able to secure the same deal. Standard Oil bankrupted the competition through these types of business practices. In reality, the privatization of the internet is no more than the resurrection of the old Rockefeller monopolistic oil practices and it needs to be stopped!
Internet entrepreneurs will not be the only group to be adversely affected by this proposed legislation. If you or your children own an IPOD, your internet access could be purposely slowed until the customer acquiesces and subscribes to a higher priced, yet affiliated service with the new owners of the internet. Tele-commuters could be negatively impacted because A. T. & T. could favor their own services when it comes to internet phone service and web broadcasting.
The cause for concern that a privately owned internet gatekeeper could and would restrict individual choice is well-founded. For example, in April of 2006, AOL Time Warner blocked all emails which stated www.dearaol.com because this was an activist campaign designed to block AOL's sponsorship which entailed the enacting of a surcharge on every sent email. Bloggers will soon find that their ability to afford to upload and post politically challenging videos and audio clips (e.g., "Loose Change" and "Houston: We Have a Problem") would disappear from the net (3). There will be no more Whitehouse Page Scandals and sexual perverts like ex-Congressman Foley will serve out their "natural" lives in the pristine halls of Congress.
Under this new plan, the Congressional scandals will not abate. But with a controlled internet, there will be nobody left to be able to afford to tell the truth. The silver lining in this very dark and ominous cloud lies in the fact that the uniformed public would have their faith restored in government as the leaders of the "Brave New Government" would appear to be men and women of distinction and character as their internet critics are silenced forever. If the net is privatized in the proposed fashion, internet journalists and journalism will disappear. Meanwhile, the Halliburton's and the KBR's will still rape the American taxpayer with their illegal and unethical business practices and Congressional pages will still be running away from pursuing Congressmen in an attempt to preserve their virtue. Those who advocate for an internet regulating agency to control internet content do so based on stopping terrorists and of course preventing child porn. Perhaps Congress should clean up its own bordello before they tell American parents how to conduct business in their own homes.
The precedent for internet control is alive and well in Communist China as everything that the Chinese view on the net, is censored. The European Union is attempting to outlaw the uploading of audio clips, images and videos on to the net. The net effect is that European corporations and governmental officials will largely be immune to scrutiny and criticism. In Europe and China there is no www.walmartsucks.com. Now, it is America's turn as we are traveling down this same censored, internet slippery slope of corporate and governmental control of the truth. Personally, I believe that this issue goes beyond simple corporate greed. With the impending implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the North American Union, which spells the demise of traditional America as we now know it, how will the internet bloggers react when they begin to read the fine print of these agreements? When CAFTA passed, Americans scarcely heard of it. Lou Dobbs was the only mainstream journalist to criticize CAFTA by asking; "Have our political elites gone mad?" This type of news black out will soon be coming to the internet and this is precisely what the political elite of this country desire as we rush head long into the creation of these regional governments and supporting trade agreements.
If you doubt the voracity of my claims of existing media control, I would ask the reader if they are aware of the fact that the corporations already have a stranglehold on the "mainstream media". Today, everything that you see, read and hear is censored in some form by six large multinational corporations (e.g., Disney, NewsCorp, Viacom, etc). That is correct; six corporate entities control nearly 100% of the media! The only place that your news is not censored is on the internet. Ask yourself this important question, if net neutrality goes the way of habeas corpus, as with the Detainee Bill, won't the real loser will be the voting public? With the new legislation, political parties and advocacy groups could have their access speed slowed to a crawl while the new internet gatekeepers would favor the groups who could afford this proposed mafia-type protection money in order to effectively espouse the "correct" political point of view. If, for example, Verizon becomes a player in this newly created internet monopoly, do you really think that they will bite the hand that feeds them; namely the American Congress and the President? Say goodbye to political commentary on the net. These stories will be replaced by articles in which the media analyzes which type of fertilizer Laura Bush uses on her petunias. In reality, the real fertilizer is the total control that the NeoCons are trying to exercise over every aspect of our lives. I am unable to find a period in the history of the American government where something stinks this bad!
Does anyone doubt that if President George W. Bush and Senator McCain would like to see a website like FreedomsPhoenix.com, Antiwar.com or the Huffingtonpress.com disappear? If the Senate Democrats and the Republicans pass this internet privatization bill, who do you think would receive preferential treatment? Already, many State election laws greatly hinder the ability of a third party candidate from ever reaching the ballot. These types of laws are brought to us by the D's and the R's. The mainstream media frequently prohibits third party candidates from appearing in televised debates (e.g., Libertarian Senatorial candidate Richard Mack). And as the D's and the R's coalesce into one party, the Washington Party, what choice will voters have when comes to discovering parties which are outside the Beltway, when it comes to finding a third party alternative which will work for positive change? The latter reason is one of the main reasons why this legislation will eventually pass both houses of Congress. The Washington Party does not want a contrarian voice which advocates choice.
Of course internet users from every State in the country will band together and force the Senate to maintain the present state of net neutrality, right? I would not count on it. You see there is a club whose membership is sweeping the country as the majority of Americans belongs to this relatively new national organization which is called AAA. No, I am not speaking about the good people who will change members' flat tires and jump start our dead batteries. AAA stands for the American Apathetic Association. The membership of AAA presently encompasses most of the nation. It is easy to join as there are no membership dues, meetings to attend or application forms to fill out. All one has to be a member of AAA is to simply continue to do nothing. AAA members just do nothing, everyday, as we spend a billion dollars per week to support the Iraq War of corporate greed; meanwhile school districts cannot afford to buy enough text books or pay your child's teacher a livable wage. AAA members stayed out in force when President Bush signed the Patriot Act 1, Patriot Act II and the recently passed Detainee Bill which gave away our legal protections from our government and not to mention the majority of the Constitution. The NeoCons guarantee that AAA members will continue to have complete access to their MTV and Monday Night Football so long as they continue to do nothing. The true test of the AAA membership will be the manner in which they return the NeoCons to Washington in the upcoming November elections.
We are living in a time when the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Nazi Enabling Act of 1933 have come to simultaneously roost in our country with the full implicit support of AAA.
In summary, thanks to the Patriot Acts, the snoop bills and the Detainee Bill, the Constitution is gone. The open media and America's access to the truth has disappeared into the rear view mirror of history. Very soon, average Americans will soon lose their right to participate in the most democratic process in history, the internet, through the elimination of their soon-to-be former creation of contrarian web sites and incessant blogging. And to add insult to injury, under the new laws, I could be declared to be an enemy combatant and just disappear off the street one day for my express failure to demonstrate allegiance to these new policies of United States Government. After all, if an attorney can receive 28 months in a federal prison for representing a detainee and demanding that such Constitutional practices, such as habeas corpus, be granted to the prisoner, I think I am in a lot of trouble. If the detainee's interpreter can receive a 20 month sentence for translating Arabic into English, what do you think will happen to me for daring to write this article? Can someone explain to me, "What exactly is waterboarding?"
(1) Krim, Jonathan; "Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed". Washington Post; December 1, 2005; D05
(2) Surowiecki; James. "Net Losses". The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town, The Financial Page (www.newyorker.com/printables/talk). March 13, 2006.
(3) www.savetheinternet.com Retrieved October 19, 2006.