The Federal Communication Commission should act swiftly to protect free access to the Internet and prevent media giants from co-opting the future of the most powerful new medium since the printing press.
Incredibly, the FCC asked the corporations who stand to profit most to write rules on how bandwidth will be divvied up. Google and Verizon floated a plan that most observers view as a roadmap to a multi-tiered system. AT&T has endorsed the Google/Verizon plan.
What's at stake is control over whose data gets transmitted, and how quickly. A wide-open field let's everyone compete. A tiered system like the one proposed by the big shots would inevitably favor them and their preferred media; some web purveyors would be relegated to second- and third-class status.
What's also at stake is freedom of speech and freedom of the press, because so many people get their news and information from the net today. Not to mention free and open access to intellectual and commercial media that power education, development and entrepreneurship.
Basically, the corporatists want to install a meter on your Internet. They whine that if they aren't allowed to nickel-and-dime us, innovation will wither.
Unfortunately, their clever ideas are likely to be the kind of vampire MBA innovations that allow banks to bleed Americans with scams like ubiquitous credit card fees, exotic mortgages and impenetrable derivative casinos.
We don't need that kind of innovation. Web and broadband development are doing just fine, thank you, in the creatively yeasty bog that our free and open net fosters. We don't need telecom and media companies -- which already enjoy near monopoly web status -- erecting bottlenecks that would further inflate their bottom lines while giving them frightening power over the timely flow of data and ideas.
It would be like forsaking the farmer's market, with all its tasty and fresh organic produce, in favor of one giant digital Wal-Mart.
In fact, web users in the United States already pay far more for Internet access, and have far balkier web access, than patrons overseas.
It's pathetic but hardly surprising that Congress is punting on this issue. The big media companies are second only to Big Pharma in campaign largess. So their elected minions sit idly on the sidelines.
That leaves it to the FCC to act on the most pressing First Amendment issue of our time. The FCC has the authority to protect the net and maintain a level playing field. All it requires is the wisdom and the will to do so.
But Congress must eventually act as well. As your U.S. Senator, I will introduce legislation that guarantees us all a place at the great table of ideas and opportunities afforded by the vast digital universe.
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