Sunday, February 4, 2007

Net Neutrality,The FCC & John McCain...What a Combo!

I wrote a blog post on John McCain's Bill (HR 1606) which is aimed at regulating the Internet (it's a House Bill that he supported and now I am doing what the media does, saying it is his bill). The main 'hot button' is the issue of on line child predators, with a little copyright infringement thrown in. What happens too often when the government gets involved? The issue has now become one of Net Neutrality . There was an Amendment proposed, which got defeated last month. Final vote on this Bill is to take place in June 2007. Do we want the government involved in regulating the Internet? We know how well the FCC does with it's regulations (yes I am being sarcastic). The FCC would of course be responsible for policing this legislation. I give a big shout out to the CNET article I highlighted above. They discuss all the amendments to this Bill (which when all is said and done will have a new SB number). Quite a few of these amendments are still 'in committee.' People as diverse as movie stars and Vint Cerf (who helped invent the Internet) all believe in net neutrality, which really means equal treatment of all sites on the Internet. The question isn't really should all sites be considered equally (blogs and websites, for example), but should it be self policing, while adhering to the existing laws (copyright infringement for example), or should the government get in the middle of it with new laws and enforcement rights. At the last minute, an amendment was introduced by Lamar Smith of Texas that said none of the Anti Trust laws would be changed in a way that would interfere with District Court oversight of Anti Trust Laws. For some reason this makes those who want Net Neutrality to remain nervous, because the proposed law keeps getting reworked to make it more palatable to all Memebers, which means it keeps becoming more and more likely that they might vote Net Neutrality out of existence.

Many are saying that large companies like broadband providers will be able to provide website content that smaller providers will not - sort of like digital versus basic cable? The consumer rights group Public Knowledge feels that this will allow companies like AT&T and Cox Cable and Com-cast to control the content of the Internet. Unlike FCC control which of course brings to mind the words tweedle dee dee and tweedle dee dum. The Internet has up to this point, allowed all users and providers to decide what applications they want to use and what content they want to view or write. Google uses this analogy: ".....Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online...."

A second point, and one that got my boxer shorts in a knot (even though I don't wear them), is that the FCC loves to control what comes across the airwaves, be it television or radio. John McCain spouted off about how political blogs can say what they want and maybe if there were some changes made, they wouldn't be allowed to be so free with their tongues (ok I paraphrased, but that is the crux of his statement). This sounds like a slap at Free Speech to me, and he is cloaking it all in regulation of sex predators on the internet. Political bloggers and sex predators are apples and oranges. And as so often happens with government, there are already laws on the books that sites like have to obey. If a sexual predator is found to have a personal profile or image on Myspace, they are required to take it down. Why more laws? I can't come up with a good reason, if you can, explain it to me. In the meantime, I think anything increasing FCC police powers over the Internet and blogging is a bad idea. Congress is trying to wrap this up for a June vote.

How do you feel about Net Neutrality? Do you want to take action? Let your voice be heard by going to InternetFreedom where you can either sign an online petition, or contact your Representatives.
Did you know actor Kevin Spacey sings? Decide for yourself if he should quit his day job with his version of The Freedom Song.

Peace Out -3C

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