Thursday, June 15, 2006

Drinking Liberally: It's OUR Internet... Isn't It?

Fellow DL'ers:

We were initially thinking that tomorrow's topic would address hypocrisy - from The Hill to Pack Square and all points in between elsewhere, and how it seems to only help careers in public service - but that's for another Thursday. Today, we gotta talk about net neutrality.

In a nutshell, network neutrality is a basic principle that preserves a free (as in speech, not as in beer) and open Internet. A level playing field where everyone can access content or run any application or device they choose. All you need is imagination and know-how... and a little bit of venture capital couldn't hurt either. eBay, Google, Yahoo!, and Skype are but a few examples of this, and we have the principle of net neutrality to thank for it. What's at issue here is the desire of the big telecommunications companies - AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon, Charter, et al - to change all of that in their favor. The telcos, who already control the greater majority of Internet access, want the power to select who gets access to high-speed lines, essentially deciding whose content gets seen first and fastest. Anyone who can't (or won't) pay those fees will have their content relegated to slower, more congested lines.

What's in it for the telcos? $$$! Ed Whitacre, CEO of AT&T, said that "the Internet can't be free... for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes free is nuts."

What's in it for the politicos who support the demise of net neutrality? Do I really need to ask?

The House bill in question, HR 5252, passed last week with overwhelmingly partisan support from the right side of the aisle, and the Senate is set to vote on this issue next week. (For the record, Rep. Charles Taylor voted no on an amendment that was introduced to HR 5252 that would have ensured net neutrality and voted yes on the final bill - We'll let you make up your own mind which side of the coin he's on.)

What's in it for us? Well... imagine it taking two minutes instead of two seconds for your e-mail program to get this message. Imagine not being able to read some peoples' blog pages because Blogger wouldn't play ball with AT&T. Imagine not being able to use a VOIP service like Vonage. Imagine not being able to use Google or Yahoo! because your ISP, in conjunction with their paid partners, would rather you use *their* search engine that lets you browse *their* content.

I don't know about you, but after typing all of this I can really use a beer or two.

And it just so happens that they make and serve some really fantastic beer as well as some tasty pizza at our new location, the Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Ave.! Come on out tonight and join us -- help us make our second week even more successful than our first!

Thanks again, and we'll see you on the patio!

syntax (co-host, Asheville Drinking Liberally)

for more information on net neutrality: (LOTS of info and links here)


redball said...


I wanted to let everyone know that the Federal Communications Commission will be coming to town on June 28th to discuss these issues with Asheville residents. Free Press, in partnership with many local organizations will be hosting a Future of Media Town Meeting that will include a panel discussion and an open microphone session for audience testimony. More information at:

Screwy Hoolie said...

Thanks redball! Good info.

Coming to DL?

GHOTI06 said...

Hi there, I work with Hands Off the Internet, and I'd like to correct something above. The telecom companies don't want to "select" winners and losers. All they're doing is making it possible to get more reliable access, primarily for video over the net. You'll hear people say it's turning the Internet into cable -- but that's not true, either. It's just adding a new capacity.

Also, it seems that at first blush, Net Neutrality laws seem like a good idea to people. That happened with USA Today's technology columnist, but now he's changed his mind. Good article, you can read it here:

Thanks! P.S. I love Asheville, can't wait to visit again.