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Net Neutrality

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GOP Would Grant Telecom Industry Control Of The Internet

By James Donahue

Telecommunication giants like AT&T and Google have been in a battle over proposed “net neutrality” rules involving the speed and affordability of Internet services to U.S. broadband customers.

In a nutshell, AT&T which has a grip on the growing Internet telephone services, and Google, which is building its control over the visual services like television, film and video imaging, have been squabbling over a need to cooperate in handling the growing volume of Web traffic. At stake is billions of dollars in private investments needed to upgrade the broadband network so customers get the services their new high-speed computers are built to deliver.

During his campaign, President Barack Obama said he supported net neutrality, and the Federal Communication Commission has just outlined new rules that would require Internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast and the others to deliver Web traffic on demand and at the speeds sought by business and private customers.

Admittedly that is a simplified version of a very complex issue that has been boiling in the halls and conference rooms of the telecom services for months.

The problem is that federal legislators are now getting involved in this issue, and you can bet your whistle that the telcom industry has been lobbying heavily in an effort to manipulate the outcome.

Enter Senator John McCain who has introduced a bill called the “Internet Freedom Act,” which he promises “will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation.”

So how far can you trust a Republican these days, especially one who has taken campaign money from telecom lobbyists?

According to reports by people who have looked into this issue, the Republican strategy is to “paint Net neutrality as government control of the Internet." In reality, it is quite the opposite. The only control is that the FCC wants to block broadband service providers from controlling the speed and quality of service they are providing.

The McCain bill would allow Internet service providers to slow down or interrupt Internet content or application of their choosing. It would, in effect, block the FCC from making Net neutrality the law of the land.

A bill like that is pretty scary because it not only gives service providers the freedom to control the speed and cost of Internet service, it would give them power over controlling what web writers report and what we are allowed to read. It is the last bastion of media freedom and this is a concerted effort to control it.

If you think you can trust the providers to maintain the kind of freedoms we have been enjoying on the Internet, you are na´ve.

Back in the days just after 9-11, this web site was using a program hosted by Yahoo. After writing articles criticizing President George W. Bush for his decision to block federal dollars for stem cell research on religious and moral grounds, and suggesting there was a better way to respond to Al-Qaeda terrorists than attacking the whole nation of Afghanistan, I found access to my web site blocked.

I was not allowed back into the site for over a month. By then I had changed hosts and I never returned to Yahoo. I would not recommend the Yahoo web site for anyone that plans to write political commentary.

This is the kind of control the McCain bill could impose on all of the Internet sites publishing within the United States.