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Friday, June 09, 2006

The end of the internet as we know it -- and the whores who facilitated it
Posted by Jill | 6:39 AM
Well, it looks like the time is coming very soon when Verizon, Earthlink, Comcast, and Cablevision will have the power to decide which sites you have access to when you use the Internet.

Do you order flowers online from your local florist? If he doesn't pay up, you won't be able to -- you'll be directed to a national online site that did.

Are you looking for information on sexually-transmitted diseases and how to prevent them? If right-wing Christian groups successfully lobby the service providers to deny you access to sites with such information by using their wallets as weapons, you'll be denied access.

Do you like to get your news from many sources with varying points of view? Soon you'll be limited to only those sites the service providers want you to see -- whether because of the political views of the providers' executives, or because only conservative sites pay up.

Do you use the Web as a user interface for your critical systems? Perhaps your ordering system or help desk software or collections system is web-based? Your systems will be placed in the slow lane unless you pay up.

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 269-152, largely along party lines, to reject an amendment to telecommunications legislation that would have ensured your equal access to any site you wish to visit.

If you had any doubts that politics in Washington are entirely controlled by corporate dollars, here is Exhibit A. Even Republicans give lip service to small businesses being the backbone of economic growth in the 21st century -- and yet here they are, enacting legislation that will cripple the efforts of any small business to use the internet to build its revenues -- unless it can afford the same fees as the big players in their industries.

This telecommunications bill will pass because people don't understand what net neutrality is or why it's important -- or why allowing the telecom companies to charge fees to those serving content over the web will not only stifle free speech, but also cripple the very small businesses Republicans pretend to want to help.

Aside from this blog, here are two ways I and my family are likely to be FINANCIALLY affected by the loss of net neutrality. I urge you to think about how YOU will be affected and either post it in the comments, or spread it as a blog meme on your own blogs.

1. My employment. We build web-based data entry systems for handling case report form data for clinical trials. With many of these trials being grant-based, who will pay the telecom companies for the kind of response time staffers need to enter this data?

2. My sister's business. My sister is a realtor who has taken great pains to build a web site full of information for people who are looking to buy houses in her area. Most realtors have just a page at realtor.com or at the site of the large brokerages with which they are affiliated. But it's the independent realtor web site that provides the most information to prospective homebuyers. Will people sit around and wait while her web site crawls as it attempts to load?

So who brought us to this point? Certainly it's the usual suspects in the Republican party, who never saw a giant corporation's campaign contribution that they didn't like. But it's not just Republicans to blame. One of the leading figures helping Big Telecom get its way is none other than one Mike McCurry, who used to be Bill Clinton's press secretary. McCurry has been particularly loathsome in his role as lobbyist for the telecom industry, including a completely misleading web site called, ironically, Hands off the Internet running blog ads like this, and pissing and moaning at Huffington Post.

McCurry's connection with the telecom industry and his disdain for anyone who disagrees with him is a particular problem for me this year, because the Dweeb-Boy that the NJ 5th District Democratic bosses have decided to run for Congress this year calls Mike McCurry "a good friend". Indeed, McCurry has been the "special guest" at a Paul Aronsohn fundraiser. Does this necessarily mean that Aronsohn, who has about as much chance of being elected this fall as I do and I'm not even running, will vote with Big Telecom? No; after all, Frank Pallone, who accepted $28,000 from telecom interests for this year's campaign, just voted FOR the Markey Amendment. But when the ONLY statement Aronsohn has made about net neutrality was a terse statement, "I support net neutrality" on Blue Jersey in the comments section of a post on why net neutrality is important, and when the ONLY photos Aronsohn has on his site are of him shaking hands with political hacks rather than real people, well, color me skeptical. Aronsohn has a long way to go to convince me that he even understands the issue, let alone is willing to go to bat for the people on this issue.

To see which Democrats sold you out, here is the vote. Scroll down to the "Noes", to see who voted AGAINST the Markey Amendment that would ensure internet neutrality. Democratic representatives are in italics. If you see your Democratic representative on the list, call him or her and ask the reason for the vote. Then start finding an alternative for 2008, because these people have just let you know where their loyalties actually are -- and they are NOT with you.

Meanwhile, the issue now goes to the Senate, so there is still time to stop the wholesale turnover of the Internet to Big Telecom. Please get on the phone with your Senators TODAY and let them know where you stand.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: Rep. Frank Pallone voted for the Markey Amendment, but then when it didn't pass, he voted to give control over the internet to Big Telco. So he did, in fact, obey his corporate masters.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have called Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Lautenberg is 100% on board with net neutrality; Menendez is still on the fence. So if you live in NJ, please contact Sen. Menendez' office immediately: (202) 224-4744. Be sure to say that you support internet neutrality. Be prepared to explain what it is, because the kid who answers the phone doesn't.
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