ACTION ALERT: House Ignores Public, Sells Out the Internet
April 27, 2006
A growing Right-Left Coalition is gaining momentum as it looks to Senate tas the last hope to save Internet Freedom from the corporate Telecom Cartel. Net Neutrality means all online activity must be treated equally, and companies like AT&T must allow Internet users to view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site.
WASHINGTON (April 26, 2006) -- Today the House Energy and Commerce Committee struck a blow to Internet freedom by voting down a proposal to protect Network Neutrality from attacks by companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.
The diverse, bipartisan SavetheInternet.com Coalition vowed to continue rallying public support for Internet freedom as the legislation moves to the full House and Senate. In less than one week, the coalition gathered more than 250,000 petition signatures, rallied more than 500 blogs to write about this issue, and flooded Congress with thousands of phone calls.
The "Markey Amendment" supporting Net Neutrality was voted down by a vote of 34 to 22. The "Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act" telecom law, or COPE Act, passed out of the committee without any meaningful protection for Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality means all online activity must be treated equally, and companies like AT&T must allow Internet users to view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site.
"The Commerce Committee is headed in the opposite direction of where the American public wants to go," said Columbia Law Professor Timothy Wu, a pro- market advocate and one of the intellectual architects of the Net Neutrality principle."Most people favor an open and neutral Internet and don't want Internet gatekeepers taxing and tollboothing innovation."
Major telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get Congress to change the rules to let them discriminate on the Internet -- forcing Web sites to pay "protection money" to ensure their sites will work properly.
"Predictably, the careerist politicians on the House Energy and Commerce Committee rolled right over in their frantic desire to do the telecoms' bidding," said Craig Fields, director of Internet operations for Gun Owners of America. "It makes no difference to them whether the Internet will remain a free and vibrant marketplace of ideas. As far as they are concerned, if big business is happy, all is right with America. And so we look with hope to the Senate, that supposedly august body, which prides itself on its more 'deliberative' pace and tone. They paint themselves as conscientious adults -- perhaps, just perhaps, they'll actually act like such when it is their turn to decide the future of the Internet."
Groups on the right and left have banded together, and hundreds of bloggers from across the political spectrum have galvanized behind this cause, with more than 500 blogs pointing their readers to SavetheInternet.com.
"It's shocking that the House continues to deny the will of the people on an issue that affects everyone so directly -- protecting the free and open Internet," said Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Civic Action.
"Our bipartisan coalition will rally the online community like it's never been rallied before, and together the public will overturn today's enormous blow to the freedom principle that's made the Internet great."
"Commerce and free expression on the Internet have flourished because it's available to everyone on the same basis," said Glenn Reynolds, of libertarian blog Instapundit.com. "That's how it should continue to be."
The SavetheInternet.com coalition includes: Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. libertarian blogger Instapundit), Parents Television Council, United Church of Christ, the American Library Association, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Common Cause, Public Knowledge, and other major public interest groups. The coalition is spearheaded by Free Press, a national, nonpartisan group focused on media reform and Internet policy issues. The rapidly expanding list of groups supporting Internet freedom is available at www.SavetheInternet.com.
"The diversity of this coalition underscores the importance of this issue," said Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet and Google's Chief Internet Evangelist. "When the Internet started, you didn't have to get permission to start companies. You just got on the Net and started your idea."
The COPE Act next moves from the committee to a full House vote. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to take up Net Neutrality legislation in the coming weeks.
"The House vote today ignores a groundswell of popular support for Internet freedom," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "We hope that the full House will resist the big telecom companies and reject the bill. But we look to the Senate to restore meaningful protections for net neutrality and ensure that the Internet remains open to unlimited economic innovation, civic involvement and free speech."
• For more information, visit www.SavetheInternet.com
Contact: Trevor Fitzgibbon, Fenton Communications, (202) 246-5303 Craig Aaron, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x25