Pols, rockers fight for open Internet

Bill aimed at preserving Web neutrality

WASHINGTON — Musicians including Moby and band REM have joined Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in calling on Congress, in its rewrite of the 1996 Telecom Act, to keep the Internet open and accessible to all, not just to online corporate giants.

Pending telecom bills currently favor helping large phone companies like AT&T and Verizon, already Internet service providers, expand operations by getting into the video market. Telcos have also talked about charging different rates and providing different speeds of service based on the size of content traveling through the system.

This has provoked concern among a number of musicians as well as an array of interest groups, from the Christian Coalition to the ACLU, all of which support the concept of “Net neutrality,” an elusive term for essentially equal and open access to the Web.

A statement from Markey’s office defined Net neutrality as “the long-held principle that ensures small music blogs and independent news sites open just as easily on people’s computers as large corporate sites.”

“The proposed legislation would allow Internet providers to decide which Web sites work best on people’s computers based on who pays them the most, favoring large corporations with deep coffers while marginalizing everyday people, community groups and small businesses,” the statement said.

“If Congress guts Net neutrality, independent music and news sites would be choked off, consumer choice would be limited, and the Internet will be become a private toll road auctioned off by companies like AT&T,” Moby said in a statement.

At least two members of the House are sympathetic. Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced on Thursday a bill aimed at preserving Net neutrality.

“The Internet, as we know it, is at risk because of shortsighted proposals by telecommunications monopolies to create ‘pay to play’ Internet access, where favored content would receive faster delivery while slower content would be sent at a snail’s pace,” Conyers said in a statement. “This approach would stifle innovation and diminish free speech on the Internet.”

“This legislation will provide an insurance policy for Internet users against being harmed by broadband network operators abusing their market power to discriminate against content and service providers,” Sensenbrenner added in a statement.

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