WebProNews reports that the Federal Communications Commission’s official Net Neutrality inquiry ended Monday, but not before a deluge of public comments in support have flooded in. Past experiences have demonstrated that it takes very few complaints to grab FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s attention. Examples include Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple during SuperBowl halftime show, what people are allowed to say and do on subscription media services, or the appropriateness of cracking jokes about “hamsterbating” before 10 PM.
Therefore one would think that tens of thousands of public comments supporting Net Neutrality would be ignored. However time will tell as it seems to be easier to get the FCC to react when it involves decency regulation than standing up to the telecoms. Free Press reports that over over 95 percent of the public comments filed “demand a free and open Internet.”
Karen Chun, a single mom and small business owner had the following to say, “I am living the American dream because of Network Neutrality — my games have been used in thousands of schools all over the world. Without Net Neutrality, my little Web site would have been consigned to oblivion because I wouldn’t have been able to pay the fees the ISPs want to charge.” I am pretty confident that the majority of small to medium size businesses feel the same way.
Wikipedia describes Net Neutrality as the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination and prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.
Net Neutrality is threatened by the nation’s largest telephone and cable companies including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner. They want to assume the role of “gatekeeper”, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all. They also want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. Additionally they want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors. The SavetheInternet Coalition describes the telecom’s actions like this:
“These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.”
This is why businesses, non-profits and individuals have banded together to work to protect net Neutrality. While the big phone and cable companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to gut Net Neutrality, there is a large group of people fighting to protect it. In fact there is a bill currently circulating in the Senate, sponsored by both a Republican and a Democrat. In a letter to FCC Chairman Martin, Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), join the chorus of supporters:
“We see that thousands of people have submitted comments describing how a free and open Internet benefits consumers and telling you the discriminatory practices planned by their Internet service providers would substantially harm their online experience. We hope you take note of these thousands of public comments urging you to protect Internet freedom.”
Are you concerned? I know that I am. So what can we do as business owners, Internet user and consumers to protect a free Internet? The SavetheInternet Coalition has some advice on their site including telling your story to the FCC, signing their petition, calling your representatives in Congress, writing a letter to your hometown newspaper, supporting the SavetheInternet ad fund and even bloging about it as I am doing right now.