“Swarming lobbyists and a multi-million-dollar media campaign by
telephone companies” is how the Save the Internet Coalition in the United
States is describing the forces that have
led to a defeat for the principle of network neutrality on the internet.

Last Thursday the House of Representative devoted just one hour to debating
legislation on the issue before passing laws that fail to protect equality on
the internet by 321 to 101. This was
despite a campaign including more than 800,000 Americans
crossing ideological and political lines and including the Consumers Union, the
Gun Owners of America, the American Library Association, and the Parents
Television Council.

The Save the Internet Coalition
described the passage of the legislation
as: “a low point in history of US
policy making. The telephone-cable internet duopoly providers deluged
with an army of lobbyists, countless millions spent on misleading PR
spin and
outright lies, and a single-minded determination to put their bottom
line ahead
of the democratic principles of an open, neutral internet.” If we lose
Net Neutrality, “we lose the most promising method for regular
people to access and provide diverse and independent news, information
entertainment. We will see the Internet become like cable TV: a handful
massive companies will decide what you can see and how much it will
cost. Gone
will be the entrepreneurship and innovation that has made the Internet
the most
important cultural and economic engine of our times.”

The fight now moves to the Senate, where there seems to be stronger support
for a bill that protects internet freedom. Meanwhile, the issue has begun to get some
coverage in the mainstream Australian media with an article in last
Thursday’s AFR (unfortunately not available online for
non-subscribers) that tackled network neutrality in Australia as well as other
matters broadband.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey