The New York Times editorial page put its formidable magnifying glass up to some fabulous work done by the Sunlight Foundation in the ferocious industry lobbying over telecommunications policy.
Sunlight has done a great job in tracking the amount of money going into stopping the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from trying to shoehorn the public interest into the usual business of protecting private interests. Congress is now starting to take a look at whether the public should be protected and how crucial Internet access services can be extended, and Sunlight again found that industry has enlisted a high powered lobbying crew to make sure things go its way.
The Times editorial called out the Democrats in the House who, for one reason or another (it really doesn't matter) "parroted views held by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon -- the biggest broadband service providers in the country." With campaign donations expected to increase, the Times said, "As the F.C.C. proceeds with its plan to regulate broadband access, it seems likely we can expect more of this resistance from members of Congress." After all, many legislators are the recipients of the largesse from industry. The Times noted that AT&T has "contributed to the campaigns of every Republican and all but three Democrats on the subcommittee that deals with the Internet in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It has given money to more than half the members of the equivalent Senate panel."
Companies will have to report by July 20 their lobbying expenses for the second quarter, and those figures are expected to be pretty eye-opening because this time period covers the decision from the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit which opened the question of the FCC's authority over broadband - and the lobbying blitz against the FCC's initiative.
Reading about all the money being spent and all the armies of lobbyists crawling around the Capitol doing industry's bidding can be pretty damn depressing. We here in Washington do what we can to get the message across, but we need your help. Make a video.
The Open Internet Coalition, a unique group of public-interest organizations and private companies (of which Public Knowledge is a member), wants to help you use the Internet to protect the Internet through a contest (with real prizes) called, "America's Got Net."
The contest is a nice cute way to hook you in to what's going on at a pivotal moment in the history of the Internet. Because everything you love about the Internet is at risk. The idea that a big company's traffic will be carried just like a small company's. The notion that the companies supplying your connection to the Internet shouldn't play favorites. The concept that you can start an online business or bring out a new app or service and be able to reach potential customers the same as anyone else.
The big telecom companies spending all that money are spending it for a reason. They want to control your access to the Internet, and, as a result, your experience on the Internet. Now is the time to stand up and say no, by making videos telling the world and, more importantly, the U.S. Congress, what the Internet means to you.
Use the Internet to help save the Internet. Prove to Congress that America's Got Net and intends to keep it that way.
Follow Art Brodsky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/artbrodsky