Think the Internet will always be the freewheeling, democratic information superhighway you’ve grown to rely on? Well, think again. Corporate media giants are working hard behind the scenes to convince a clueless and compliant Congress to privatize the Internet. The telecom and cable giants want to fence off the Internet with one area for the haves–who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane–and the other for the have-nots.
As digital democracy expert Jeff Chester wrote on The Nation’s site, “The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.”
To ward off the prospect of “virtual toll booths on the information highway,” an interesting coalition of public-interest groups like Common Cause and Free Press, along with new media companies like Amazon.com, are calling for new federal policies requiring “network neutrality” on the Internet. This would prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against any forms of digital content. In this way internet service providers would be regulated like telephone companies used to be, and couldn’t simply decide to block their customers’ access to legal websites.
Net neutrality wouldn’t completely neuter the threat of Internet privatization but it would be an important victory in maintaining the Internet’s public sphere. Congressional hearings took place last week. Congress will vote on the issue sometime relatively soon. Now is the time to make your voice heard. Free Press has a good action letter. Click here to tell Congress to protect freedom and openness on the Internet by supporting net neutrality. And click here to read and circulate background info detailing why the stakes are so high in this battle.