[Vision2020] Threat to Internet

Ralph Nielsen nielsen at uidaho.edu
Fri Apr 21 10:38:01 PDT 2006

Dear MoveOn member,

Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These  
activities, plus MoveOn's online organizing ability, will be hurt if  
Congress passes a radical law that gives giant corporations more  
control over the Internet.

Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard  
to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment. Net  
Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most  
easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon doesn't  
have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on  
your computer.

If Net Neutrality is gutted, MoveOn either pays protection money to  
dominant Internet providers or risks that online activism tools don't  
work for members. Amazon and Google either pay protection money or  
risk that their websites process slowly on your computer. That why  
these high-tech pioneers are joining the fight to protect Network  
Neutrality1—and you can do your part today.

The free and open Internet is under seige—can you sign this petition  
letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network  
Neutrality? Click here:


Then, please forward this to 3 friends. Protecting the free and open  
Internet is fundamental—it affects everything. When you sign this  
petition, you'll be kept informed of the next steps we can take to  
keep the heat on Congress. Votes begin in a House committee next week.

MoveOn has already seen what happens when the Internet's gatekeepers  
get too much control. Just last week, AOL blocked any email  
mentioning a coalition that MoveOn is a part of, which opposes AOL's  
proposed "email tax."2 And last year, Canada's version of AT&T—Telus— 
blocked their Internet customers from visiting a website sympathetic  
to workers with whom Telus was negotiating.3

Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue. Many  
of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and are on  
the verge of selling out to people like AT&T's CEO, who openly says,  
"The internet can't be free."4

Together, we can let Congress know we are paying attention. We can  
make sure they listen to our voices and the voices of people like  
Vint Cerf, a father of the Internet and Google's "Chief Internet  
Evangelist," who recently wrote this to Congress in support of  
preserving Network Neutrality:

My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the  
Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits  
network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of  
services and to potentially interfere with others would place  
broadband operators in control of online activity...Telephone  
companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators  
should not dictate what people can do online.4

The essence of the Internet is at risk—can you sign this petition  
letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network  
Neutrality? Click here:


Please forward to 3 others who care about this issue. Thanks for all  
you do.

–Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the MoveOn.org Civic  
Action team
   Thursday, April 20th, 2006

P.S.  If Congress abandons Network Neutrality, who will be affected?
Advocacy groups like MoveOn—Political organizing could be slowed by a  
handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay  
"protection money" for their websites and online features to work  
Nonprofits—A charity's website could open at snail-speed, and online  
contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can't pay dominant  
Internet providers for access to "the fast lane" of Internet service.
Google users—Another search engine could pay dominant Internet  
providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens  
faster than Google on your computer.
Innovators with the "next big idea"—Startups and entrepreneurs will  
be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay  
Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy  
will be left in the "slow lane" with inferior Internet service,  
unable to compete.
Ipod listeners—A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes,  
steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
Online purchasers—Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee  
their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices— 
distorting your choice as a consumer.
Small businesses and tele-commuters—When Internet companies like AT&T  
favor their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable  
providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls,  
and software that connects your home computer to your office.
Parents and retirees—Your choices as a consumer could be controlled  
by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred services  
for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning  
vacations, etc.
Bloggers—Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips— 
silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of  
a few corporate-owned media outlets.
To sign the petition to Congress supporting "network neutrality,"  
click here:

P.P.S. This excerpt from the New Yorker really sums up this issue well.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national  
telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted  
a policy of "tiered access" for businesses. Companies that paid an  
extra fee got better service: their customers' calls went through  
immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear.  
Those who didn't pony up had a harder time making calls out, and  
people calling them sometimes got an "all circuits busy" response.  
Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and  
away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T.  
& T.'s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.

If you've never heard about this bit of business history, there's a  
good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a  
"common carriage" rule: it provided the same quality of service to  
all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while  
"tiered access" never influenced the spread of the telephone network,  
it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet.

Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de- 
facto commoncarriage rule, usually called "network neutrality," which  
meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality was  
considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael  
Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of  
the basic rules of "Internet freedom." In the past few months,  
though, companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to  
scuttle it. In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers  
could receive what BellSouth recently called "special treatment," and  
those that don't could end up in the slow lane. One day, BellSouth  
customers may find that, say, NBC.com loads a lot faster than  
YouTube.com, and that the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run  
more smoothly. Tiered access will turn the providers into Internet  


1. "Telecommunication Policy Proposed by Congress Must Recognize  
Internet Neutrality," Letter to Senate leaders, March 23, 2006

2. "AOL Blocks Critics' E-Mails," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2006

3. "B.C. Civil Liberties Association Denounces Blocking of Website by  
Telus," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Statement, July  
27, 2005

4. "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope," BusinessWeek, November  
7, 2002

5. "Net Losses," New Yorker, March 20, 2006

6. "Don't undercut Internet access," San Francisco Chronicle  
editorial, April 17, 2006

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