The Players in the Fight for Internet Freedom

All this week, I'm going to be blogging about the fight for internet freedom taking place in the House and Senate centerted at SaveTheInternet.com. The details are covered in this excellent 2 minute video clip. If you want more detail, Art Brodsky explains on TPMCafe how the telco cartel is going to actually turn the internet from a public commons to a gated community.

Basically, you've got two groups working to stop the sellout of the internet to private interests, and three working against it. Here they are:

Congress: The Sell-Outs

Telco's pump massive amounts of money into lobbying efforts and political campaigns.  Just in 2004, the United States Telecom Association pumped $14 million into lobbying efforts alone.

Both Republican and Democratic Congressman, like Bobby Rush and Joe Barton, are susceptable to this money. Congressmen in this group tend to have either longstanding relationships with the telecom lobby, are reliable party line votes, or aren't really paying attention. 

Congress: Freedom Fighters

These are Congressmen like Rich Boucher, Heather Wilson, Ed Markey, Byron Dorgan, and Olympia Snowe, who are doing the right thing in keeping the internet open. These politicians tend to be populist in orientation and quite skeptical towards concentrated centers of power, like telco cartels. Until now, they have not had a great deal of firepower behind them.

The Telco Cartel and Their Lobbyists

This is a bipartisan corporate insider contigent - these are rather disingenuous people like Mike McCurry, former Clinton spokesperson, who is now a lobbyist.  This group engages in three basic tactics:


  1. Aggressive lobbying and campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats
  2. Astroturfing fake popular support for their effort through web sites like The Future Faster and Hands off the Internet (or HOTI).
  3. Misleading arguments to make the public think that the telco cartel is in favor an open and free internet

The Innovators

This includes companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc - corporate giants that seek to build innovative services and software on top of an open and free internet, and who have created amazing value over the past twenty years.  

It also includes small businesses that are innovating in their industries using the internet and don't want to have to secure permission from a telecommunications company to do so.

Ordinary Citizens

These are ordinary citizens like Gun Owners of America, Moveon, Instapundit, Public Knowledge, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed the petition to keep the internet open and free.  

How the Fight Will Play Out

There are several rounds in this fight, the the strategy for victory is to demonstrate that there is popular support for a free and open internet and then convince Congressmen to vote for it.  The vote first goes to the House, and then the Senate.  We only need to stop the telcos in one of a series of votes.

The House fight, where the vote count looks tough, will take place this week.  Both Committees where the legislation will be hashed out are in all likelihood stacked against us, as is the House itself.  The goal here is to show Congress that there is popular outrage, and to get members positioned to vote with us the next time this is brought up for a vote.  

Next comes the Senate.  Should we demonstrate momentum during the House fight, the Senate will perk up demonstrably.  There may be hearings on this issue, and a Committee vote where we can have impact.  We can also have impact on the full Senate vote.  We have allies in the Senate, but they are being lobbied hard by telecom lobbyists who have longstanding relationships with them.  

If they believe that there is a large coalition of concerned citizens and businesses fighting for a free and open internet, we will win this fight.  

Here are some action steps you can take to be a part of this fight:

Write your Congressman.
Sign the Moveon petition.
Befriend us on MySpace.

The Fight for Internet Freedom Starts Tomorrow

The freedom to do what you want on the internet is under attack, and this week is when the fight begins.  A broad coalition from Gun Owner's of America to Instapundit to Freepress to Moveon to MyDD started the SaveTheInternet.com campaign to fight against the telco cartel's attempt to turn the Internet into another cable system.  We can win this fight, and we will win it.  And we need your help.  And make no mistake, if you are a blogger or run a web site, or if you use the internet and like the ability to choose which web sites you visit, then this is relevant to you.  

Here are some action steps you can take to be a part of this fight:
Write your Congressman.
Sign the Moveon petition.
Befriend us on MySpace.

There's more...

The United States Telecom Association Is Being Oppressed

The United States Telecom Association is apparently oppressed by the man.  Here's the text of an ad they are running on lots of blogs for a site called The Future Faster which argues we need to update our telecommunications laws (likely including net neurality).  

We had no choice but to short-circuit the mainstream media and take our message directly to the blogs.  See the ad that Capitol Hill won't.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the USTA spent more than $14M on lobbying activities in 2004.  That's a lot of money to not be heard on Capitol Hill.  

There's more...

Democrats Giving Away The Internet

I read Matt's diary about Save The Internet launching on Monday. Art Brodsky over at TPM Cafe has an article, Congress Is Giving Away the Internet, and You Won't Like Who Gets It, that gets to the crux of the political problem:

Here's the inside baseball: A couple of weeks ago, a courageous band of legislators tried to stop the madness in Subcommittee. Ed Markey, Rick Boucher, Anna Eshoo and Jay Inslee proposed some good language to protect the Internet. For their troubles, they just got four more votes, other than theirs. Just three Democrats, other than the sponsors, voted for it. Only one Republican voted for it. When we talk about special interest giveaways, this one will be at the top of the list. And we won't have only Republicans to blame.

This is going to be a reprise of MBNA Biden's Bankruptcy Reform legislation. Get ready for deja vu all over again as corporate Democrats slam this baby home for their big donors. Don't kid your selves. This legislation is a done deal. We're screwed.

There's more...

Democratic Lobbyist Mike McCurry Coming After the Internets

Why do bad Democrats keep coming after the internet?  Maybe it's the money.  For instance, I did a little googling on former Clinton WH press secretary McCurry yesterday, the Co-Chair of the telco cartel front-group Hands off the Internet that seeks to ruin the open nature of the internet.

It turns out he's a partner at Public Strategies Washington, a lobbying firm whose "partners provide clients a competitive edge in dealing with Washington policy makers." The firm is quite proud of its connections.  "With the practical knowledge gained from serving at senior levels on Capitol Hill, the White House, and on national political campaigns, PSW's principals bring to each task behind-the-scenes know-how that is critical in maneuvering through the policy making process."

And what do you know?  One of PSW's client's is SBC Communications, which was recently merged into AT&T.  Interesting.  

And what does ATT's CEO Ed Whiteacre have to say about net neutrality?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

As one commenter noted, this is like an airline demanding a share of the profits you make on a business trip

There's more...

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