I usually don’t discuss politics in public, especially not on my blog. But there’s an insidious campaign going on in Washington right now that I’ve got to bring your attention to.
Congress and Internet service providers like the cable and telephone companies are conspiring to turn the Internet from a free, wide-open smorgasbord of information into a very limited and expensive format that resembles cable TV.
And I’m not talking about some threat that’s far in the future. This is being voted on right now.
At the end of April, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 42 to 12 in favor of a new bill called the Communications Opportunity Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act.
What’s this all about?
The COPE Act would allow ISP’s to give preferential treatment to some customers and for some content allowing them to charge additional fees for the privilege. They’d also be able to block or limit access to websites that refuse to pay or that they don’t particularly like.
So the Internet would become like cable television where networks like CNN, Fox and ESPN pay the cable companies huge fees for access to their customers. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, AOL and Comcast will decide which websites you’ll see based on who pays them the highest fees.
An amendment to the bill, the Net Neutrality Amendment, which would have preserved the same equal treatment among Internet users we enjoy now was rejected by the committee 34 to 22. This despite heavy support from companies like Google and Amazon.
If the COPE act passes, smaller websites like yours and mine could be blocked or made to load so slowly that nobody would bother to visit.
That means no more level playing field. It would prevent the opportunity for an individual or small company to create the next eBay.
What upsets me even more about this is the telecommunication industry has launched their own grassroots misinformation campaign attempting to make the Net Neutrality Act look like the villain.
They’re running ads online, in print and even having telemarketers call consumers. The campaigns appear to be run by anti-censorship and consumer watchdog groups with slogan’s like “Don’t let the Government Ruin the Internet”. In reality, the groups are secretly run by companies like AT&T.
The logic they’re presenting is that ‘evil’ companies like Microsoft and Google are wasting all our bandwidth and that cost is going to be passed on to consumers. They suggest that a bill is in Congress to force Google and Microsoft to pay more for Internet usage.
Never mind that the reason sites like Google, MSN and Amazon use a lot of bandwidth is because they’re popular with consumers.
The usual “big business is evil” stuff is funny considering most of these groups are privately organized and backed by AT&T.
This is not some hypothetical threat. There are already examples of what happens when net neutrality disappears.
Some cable companies have played bandwidth games with competing voice over Internet phone (voip) providers so the competition’s quality suffers prompting customers switch to the cable company’s voip offering.
Here’s another example…
In April, AOL blocked all emails referring to a website called www.dearaol.com. That website was hosted by an advocacy group that opposed AOL’s proposed pay-to-send email scheme.
And these are just a couple of examples. There are many similar stories.
This isn’t a problem caused by one particular political party It’s a money grab by members of Congress in both parties.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Bobby Rush, the democratic congressman that is co-sponsor of the Cope Act (and who blocked the Net Neutrality Amendment), received a 1 million dollar grant from AT&T, one of the parties that will benefit the most from the COPE act.
The other co-sponsors are House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) and Commerce Committee chair Joe Barton (R-Texas).
There are bills being introduced to counteract this but they need our support. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) has introduced a bill that would reinforce Net Neutrality. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is co-sponsoring a bill in the Senate to promote Internet Freedom.
We all need to take action fast to prevent the COPE Act from moving forward and help these new bills become law. I recommend you visit SaveTheInternet.com, sign the petition there and contact your representatives in Congress.
The COPE Act is real. It’s a huge threat to Internet marketers, bloggers, other website owners and anyone using the Internet.
Please take a minute now to visit this site: