THE BLOG

Stop an Internet Hijacking

08/16/2010 02:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Massive corporations are cooking up backroom deals right now that could end this era of online innovation and fundamentally alter how we use the Internet.

And there is little to stop them -- unless we act now.

I firmly believe that congressional action is the only way to truly protect our online rights. For years, I've done everything I can in the halls of Congress to find the support for legislation that will protect the open Internet, and unfortunately the will is just not there -- the telecoms hold too much sway.

We must demand the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has the power to protect the open Internet, step up to the plate and act immediately. My colleagues Ed Markey, Mike Doyle, and Anna Eshoo have joined me in sending a letter to the FCC laying out a set of guiding principles that will prevent corporations from hijacking our open Internet for their own profits.

The most recent threat to a free and open Internet (and the first of what could be a string of these backroom deals) hit a little over a week ago, when Google and Verizon laid out a policy proposal that would do everything to expand service providers' profits but nothing to protect a free and open Internet. Worse, it would have closed down the open model for wireless, the real future of online access. Many of us were deeply disappointed in Google's participation in this proposal -- they have long been advocates for an open Internet.

Google and Verizon are businesses trying to make a buck -- I guess that's their job. But now it's time for members of Congress to stand with me and tell the FCC to do its job.

This should serve as a wake-up call to us all.

Let's be clear what's at stake here. Currently, Americans pay an Internet service provider for the ability to get online. Once online, they are free to browse as they choose, pick their online shopping experience, interact with friends and family, play games, etc. The service provider you pay each month lives under a generally accepted rule that they will not discriminate against any site or information, as long as it is legal -- in other words, they can't slow down access to one site simply because they own interest in a competitor or another site is paying them a fee.

But recent legal cases have destroyed the rules governing the Internet, and action by Internet service providers has clearly demonstrated that these companies are looking to turn access to the Internet into something completely different. They want to be able to capitalize on and control where you go on the Internet, solely based on what benefits their bottom line.

It won't be entrepreneurs, artists, and regular Americans deciding who wins and loses online -- it will be your Internet service provider.

If we wait on Congress to act, we could already be beyond the point of no return.

Thousands of you joined me to call on the FCC to do something back in May. But we can't let up now. They need to see how important this issue is to our future. If this new deal doesn't light a fire under them, and us, to get something done -- nothing will.

This is the FCC's job right now, and their lack of strong enforcement is unacceptable. The free-flow of ideas and innovation online is in danger.