More on the vital campaign for network
neutrality in the United
States – the battle
I have previously described as being potentially more important than the
lifting or retention of cross-media ownership laws in Australia.

Just
a few days ago it looked as though the big telcos would have a clean
sweep in
their attempt to get laws allowing them to charge for preferred status
on the internet – potentially killing independent media competitors.
But now major internet companies including
Google and Amazon, plus a grassroots movement of more than 700 groups,
have
combined to lobby Congress to reconsider the issue. There are now
alternative
proposals afoot.

Yesterday
the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate both considered proposals to
prohibit broadband network providers from charging extra fees to run content at
higher speeds and qualities.

Meanwhile big telcos in the United States are really ramping up their campaign to allow them to charge for preferred
status. The Save the Internet blog, which includes full coverage of the
issue, includes the following account of a nasty bit of push polling:

I just got a phone call by a nice lady who tried to
persuade me that net neutrality is bad. Because there is an internet
price increase coming really really soon, and Google wants me to pay
for it. The dialogue went something like this:

(obligatory awkward call centre pause)

Her:
“Hello, I’m calling from a non profit organisation called TV 4 US, and
we call consumers about an upcoming internet price hike. The big
internet companies, like, (small pause) Microsoft want you to pay for
that. Do you think that is fair?”

Me, confused: “Uhm, what are you calling about?”

Her:
“The internet is going to be more expensive, because big companies like
Microsoft and Google are wasting all our bandwidth. Do you think
consumers should pay for that? Or should the big companies that are
wasting the bandwidth pay for that?”

At which point I tried to
argue that companies use bandwidth because consumers use their
services, but of course she was trained to end her call as soon as she
would hit a road block.

This is a huge issue in the United States with international implications.
We should be following it here.