On Monday, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken made the corporate takeover of the Internet - and the government's acquiescence to these corporations - frighteningly clear.
Franken told a crowd of independent musicians and tech entrepreneurs attending the South by Southwest conference that the open Internet, which has been such a boon for artists, is under threat.
Commercializing (or mainstreaming) the arts has often put creativity at risk, Franken told the audience, relating his own experiences in television. But this has changed, he said, thanks to the Internet.
"The Internet has proven not only to be a hotbed for innovation [and] an incredible engine for job creation, but also the ultimate self-distribution channel," Franken said. "Now you don't need a record deal to make a song and have people hear it."
The Party May Be Over
"I came here today to warn you that this party may almost be over," Sen. Franken said. Internet service providers are "coming after the Internet hoping to destroy the very thing that makes it such an important tool for independent artists and entrepreneurs -- its freedom and openness."
"The strategy being used by people who want to destroy Net Neutrality are trying to confuse people about what Net Neutrality means," he said. Net Neutrality's basic fairness is taken for granted by users, "because that is how it's always been. The Internet is democratic."
And If corporations take over the Internet, the incredible Web-based mobilization and creativity of the last 10 years would no longer exist, Franken said.
Making Clear the Rules of the Road
The government now has a role to play, he said during an interview with TheUptake.org, before his speech. "The point of this is that this is not the government taking over the Internet, but the government making clear the rules of the road, and that we have basic protections for the open Internet."
Sen. Franken called on everyone to counter the anti-Net Neutrality lobbyists in Washington, "who are using a rhetorical technique that I call 'making things up.'"
Calling Net Neutrality a "government takeover of the Internet," Sen. Franken said, is a "talking point that deserves a place alongside 'death panels' and 'Obama is a Muslim' in the pantheon of lies that are not just baldly false, but completely ridiculous."
Franken pledged to introduce legislation that "would call violations of Net Neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our antitrust laws."
"It's time for us to use the Internet to save the Internet," Franken said, urging those present in Austin and watching online to help build the movement needed to win this crucial fight.