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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hands on the Internet

For the first time ever in the history of this here blog, I have two BlogAds going at once. It's still not enough money to cover what they want to fix my car, but, hey . . .

However, the second of those ads ("See the future of the internet!") is one that you should be wary about. You may have heard a little bit about the "net neutrality" debate going on right now in Congress. The idea is that, absent regulation or law, internet service providers could be free to deny or privilege specific web content. For example, if you get your internet through SBC/Yahoo/AT&T or whatever they are now, your ISP could decide that you just don't need access to Google, which is, of course, a chief rival to Yahoo. MSN could decide not to let you visit the Apple Store online. Providers may decide that all the streaming video you've come to enjoy from places like YouTube is just too bandwidth intensive, and so you can't have it. Or, you can't have it at a reasonable download speed.

The ad takes you to a quaint little deceptive movie about the net neutrality debate, but you can click around and get to Hands off the Internet, which is kind of the blog of the group sponsoring the ad. You can find there that they believe
that the Net's phenomenal growth over the past decade stems from the ability of entrepreneurs to expand consumer choices and opportunities without worrying about government regulation. We believe consumers across America see the results of this "hands off" approach - through such benefits as expanded distance education opportunities, improved access and speed to almost any information, on-line commerce, and an easier and inexpensive way to communicate with family and colleagues.
What's funny about this, of course, is that up until recently--the last year or so, I think--there were regulations in place requiring neutrality and equal access to content from all ISPs. Those regulations went away, and that's why we're now in a fight to get them back. So the "phenomenal growth"--things like Google, eBay, MySpace, YouTube, and so on--all happened under the kind of regulation this group opposes!

It won't surpirse you to learn that their effort is heavily subsidized by the telecoms (which is why I don't feel bad about taking their ten bucks even though I disagree with them). The lead spokesman is former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry--who has, because of his corporate shillingness, earned the inetense scorn of the left.

At any rate, you can click through and decide for yourself. But don't be fooled by their discussions of taxing the internet and things like that--none of that is on the table from anyone anywhere. All the forces of good are looking for is the assurance that ISPs cannot block or slow down content, picking and choosing what you get to see.

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