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Your Internet: Open or Closed?

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During a Friday briefing in the chambers of the House Commerce Committee Tim Wu, Ben Scott, Marvin Ammori, Jef Pearlman and Markham Erickson laid out the central struggle in our campaign to save a free-flowing Internet.

At stake is whether the Internet will be open, neutral and accessible to all or a closed network -- controlled by a handful of gatekeepers with monopoly tendencies.

Neutrality v. Monopoly
The speakers laid out this conflict in clear, concise and often chilling terms. Their comments are drawn into relief against a backdrop of abuses by network giants Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

The stage was also set by Reps. Ed Markey and Chip Pickering, who earlier in the week introduced the "Internet Freedom and Preservation Act" a forward-thinking piece of legislation that would write baseline Net Neutrality protections into the Communications Act, and give the FCC the teeth to stop incidents of discriminatory blocking and censorship over the Internet.

(And let's not forget efforts by many of these same actors to gain immunity from prosecution for unwarranted spying on Americans.)

Why Now?
The Clash of Civilizations

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, often calls this conflict a "clash of civilizations."

It's a time in our immediate history when traditional media powers are facing off against a new form of communications -- that is more grassroots and decentralized -- and attempting to re-assert their control as they did in the past when the "disruptive technologies" of the broadcast era were being adopted by mass audiences.

"Behind every great and abusive monopoly almost always lies a network ... a network that has been co-opted, which has been turned into a discriminatory network, and which has been then used to carry out and further the power of the monopoly." Said Wu.

Monopoly, Investment and the Public Interest
"So when we are talking about these complicated issues of Comcast blocking and what's going on with NARAL what we are really talking about is whether we will allow these networks to become the seeds of a new generation of dangerous and abusive monopolies."

A Moment in History

Scott asked why we are engaged in this fight over an open verses closed Internet right now.

Through a combination of forces -- including remarkable innovations in technology, surging consumer demand, industry consolidation and policy mistakes -- the U.S. Internet has arrived at a volatile moment.

Comcast's Control Fantasy
Decisions we make about our right to communicate right now will have an impact on our economic and civic life and social health for generations to come.

In the videos embedded here, Wu, Scott, Ammori, Pearlman and Erickson help set the stage for this struggle.

With their legislation this week, Markey and Pickering give us hope that we can send a strong and clear message that heavy-handed telco and cable control will no longer be tolerated.