They've called us pirates, pigs, lunatics and communists. They've funneled their money to PR firms that spin the media about the "evils" of Net Neutrality -- the principle that protects our online freedom.
Because nearly two million people have stood up for an open Internet, they're trying to knock us down.
They're the phone and cable lobby, and they're out to end Net Neutrality by sliming anyone who stands in their way.
Phil Kerpen, who fronts Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organizing group, just called Net Neutrality supporters "angry radicals" who are "ideologically committed to having control of our communications systems."
"So we have Marxists that are designing and working on Net Neutrality ... to control content," said Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck after Kerpen purported to explain the issue. "This is what most people, most people, are worried about."
It sure sounds scary. What's scarier still is that Kerpen never discloses that his crackpot populism is funded by the same companies that want to eliminate Net Neutrality. Americans for Prosperity rakes in substantial sums from big corporations to undermine consumers' rights, attack health care reform and paint efforts to curb global warming as socialism's Trojan Horse.
'Most People' Can Speak for Themselves
But most people aren't buying it, and appear to support access to an Internet that's without corporate gatekeepers.
Companies like AT&T and Comcast are opposed to Net Neutrality because it prevents them from gaining more control over Internet users' clicks. In their version of reality, the Web's open DNA must be destroyed to increase the already obscene profit margins they earn each year selling access to this common good.
But rather than just say that, they've manufactured myths and misinformation about the Internet's history and attacked the people who want to protect its democratic design.
Clues that their claims about the evils of an open Internet are fabricated are revealed in the language of leaked AT&T e-mails and the financial reporting -- if you can find it -- of the many front groups that willingly say whatever you pay them to. (For more on that, read Craig Aaron's searing analysis of these shady operators.)
Thankfully, people are not taking these blows sitting down. The FCC's public comment period on a possible Net Neutrality rule closed just hours ago. And despite the furious and well-financed spin by phone and cable flacks, 90 percent of the comments submitted come from people who support Net Neutrality.
SavetheInternet.com member CredoAction rallied 100,000 people to sign a petition urging the FCC to act. Free Press submitted a petition signed by 35,000 people urging the agency to "stand firm in support of Net Neutrality." And in the last 72 hours alone, more than 20,000 people submitted unique comments explaining why this basic consumer protection is important.
The Power of the Opinion Industry
"As a writer and artist, I am currently producing a talking comic book that will be put on the internet for fans to download," Edward Delaney wrote to the FCC on Thursday. "If corporate monopolies take dominion over the Internet, then independent creators like me will not be able to present our work or leave anything behind."
Delaney's is just one of thousands of every political stripe and interest who believe that the Internet belongs to the people who use it every day -- and not just to companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.
We'll know whether the FCC acts on our behalf by summer. Between now and then, the agency will sift through the public comments and, in the next phase of the process, invite the public to reply. By early spring, they'll be reviewing the full docket as they prepare to make a final rule.
Congress will be watching closely and needs reminding - in a town where the phone and cable lobby bankrolls federal candidates in excess of $100 million -- whom they really work for.
And President Barack Obama must hold firm to his pledge to "take a back seat to no one in my commitment to Network Neutrality."
With all of these forces in alignment, one might be lulled into thinking that Net Neutrality is a done deal. But the opinion industry's power to topple reform cannot be underestimated.
When it comes to the unfinished business of protecting an open Internet, our political system has a tendency to listen to the shouting class of D.C. spin doctors. But the outcry from the Edward Delaneys of the country may just now be starting to get through.
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