December 9th, 2006 09:47 EST
SavetheInternet.com - Bad Telecom Legislation Defeated with End of 109th Congress
WASHINGTON - The SavetheInternet.com Coalition, the broad alliance of groups that mobilized millions of citizens to defend the free and open Internet, today hailed the demise of telecommunications legislation in the 109th Congress that failed to protect the fundamental principle of Network Neutrality.
”This is a huge victory for real people, a huge defeat for entrenched corporations, and a clear signal to the next Congress that standing up for big bold ideas is a winning political proposition," said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action.
"Millions of people have used the Internet to save the Internet," added Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press, which coordinates the SavetheInternet.com Coalition. "The end of this Congress gives us the chance to have a long overdue public conversation about what the future of the Internet should look like. It’s time to craft policies that ensure all Americans can access the Internet and enjoy the unlimited choices it has to offer."
Network Neutrality has been part of the Internet since its inception, ensuring that the service providers who control the "pipes" don’t interfere with content based on its ownership or source. "Net neutrality is just about fairness and a level playing field," said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist. "It's that simple."
Companies like AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth and Comcast pushed the FCC to remove Net Neutrality protections last year and have since spent more than $150 million to keep Congress from reinstating the nondiscrimination rules that enabled the Internet to become an unprecedented vehicle for free speech and economic innovation. But in the end, they couldn't overcome widespread public opposition, and Congress would not pass a telecommunications bill that failed to protect Internet freedom.
”The people’s attention to the issue of Net Neutrality is more powerful than any legislation - and this year proves that," said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University Law School and author of Who Controls the Internet.
The beginning of a new Congress in January means that legislators will have to start from scratch in crafting a new telecommunications bill, with new leadership in place on key committees in both the House and Senate.
"Consumers dodged a bullet when telephone and cable industry failed, in the end, to convince the 109th Congress to enact anti-consumer policies that would have hiked prices for cable TV and broadband and reduced consumer choice," said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst at Consumers Union. "Industry will be back with their money and phony grassroots groups. But next time around, with a public now well-informed of what's at stake, we hope Congress will take up broadband policy that advances consumer -- not just industry -- needs."
"We look forward to working with the new Congress to craft a comprehensive broadband policy that will preserve the open character of the Internet," added Gigi Sohn, founder and president of Public Knowledge. "Consumers were the winners when Congress chose not to pass legislation during the session just ending that would have given control over delivery of Internet content to the telephone and cable companies and, in addition, would have given control of consumers' use of digital media to the FCC and entertainment industries."
The more than 850 groups in the SavetheInternet.com Coalition also include the National Religious Broadcasters, the Service Employees International Union, the American Library Association, Educause, Gun Owners of America, Future of Music Coalition, Parents Television Council, the ACLU, and every major consumer group in the country. The coalition also includes thousands of bloggers and hundreds of small companies that do business online.
"As an activist and new media advocate, I am encouraged by our prospects in Congress for protecting the egalitarian spirit of the Internet and all people's unfettered access to it," said Christopher Rabb, founder of Afro-Netizen. "This campaign is essential to ensuring that everyone will continue to have the freedom to navigate the Web without undue barriers -- technical, financial, ideological or otherwise. This fight has even greater impact on underserved communities, particularly among African-Americans, who rarely own or control the content we consume in mainstream media."
”The defeat of the telecom bill means that small businesses like mine can still be viewed by customers just as easily as the site of a big corporation," said Gary Maricle, a small business owner in Albuquerque whose business consists of 20 Web sites that sell New Mexico chilies. “A neutral Internet allows businesses to compete on merit, not based on which company can afford to pay gatekeepers like AT&T to have their site open more quickly than their competitors."
While the defeat of HR 5252 is a major step forward and opens the possibility for a better bill next year that actually protects consumers and expands broadband access, the future of the Internet remains in jeopardy until Congress passes meaningful, enforceable protections for Net Neutrality. Such legislation will be a top priority for members of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition when the legislators return in January.
"Despite a Congress deeply in the pocket of telecom lobbyists, the public banded together to stop attacks on our free and open Internet," declared Michael Kieschnick, president of the Working Assets. “In 2007, we will continue the fight to preserve this precious public good by making Network Neutrality the law of the land."
"The potent combination of grassroots support and the facts stopped a bad bill," said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. "But the fight for Net Neutrality has only begun."
The www.SavetheInternet.com Coalition is a grassroots, nonpartisan alliance of hundreds of groups, thousands of bloggers, and more than a million concerned Americans who have joined together to protect Internet freedom and Network Neutrality. No corporation or political party funds the coalition. Statements by the SavetheInternet.com Coalition are not necessarily endorsed by every participating organization.