The FCC’s Net Neutrality Vote: The Corporate Internet Takeover Begins

As the assault on the internet gathers steam in the era of WikiLeaks following the UN’s Internet Governance Forum,  the non-elected officials at the FCC will determine the fate of the Internet’s velocity behind closed doors.

The FCC's Net Neutrality Vote: The Corporate Internet Takeover Begins

Let’s define Net Neutrality for those who might be confused. Net Neutrality attempts to maintain the level playing field from bloggers to media conglomerates like Viacom. Everyone pays a basic fee for broadband or wireless, and the speed with which content or information is delivered and received is the same for everyone.

The argument against Net Neutrality is that the Internet should reflect a free market philosophy, America’s time-honored economic tradition. If the Internet service providers want to charge more money for the fastest connection speeds, who are we to say that they cannot sell jacked-up prices to those willing to pay?  If a corporation has the resources to pay a premium for the “fast lane” as Senator Al Franken emphasized in a recent Senate speech, the ISP’s like Comcast and Time-Warner believe the market should dictate the terms.

And while the ISP’s have assured the American public that certain sites won’t have their content slowed or blocked, the following scenario is a very real possibility: websites with slim bank accounts could be stuck with extremely slow page loads. Remember MySpace? If you operate a website and you don’t have the deep pockets of CitiBank or NBC, for example, then you’re site could potentially load with the speed of MySpace.

Here’s a potential example of life in a tiered Internet system. Let us say an event occurs on American soil. And let us say that a blogger is there to see with a camera. He or she uploads the footage and writes commentary on the event, but because of their inability to pay for the premium, or perhaps because of their political ideology, their ability to disseminate information is inhibited by a slow page load. And those news services who are able to pay the premium will then effectively have an even greater edge in controlling the shape of information.

As Senator Franken emphasized in his speech:

“We do not want corporations to be able to drown out the voices of smaller, less powerful individuals. Unfortunately, the proposal before the FCC—which I’ll admit I haven’t seen because it’s not been made public—would reportedly allow companies to do just that. It would allow Internet providers to create a fast lane for companies who can afford to pay a premium.  It would allow mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless to completely block content and applications whenever it suits them, for either political or business reasons. Now let me underscore this: This is the first time that the FCC has ever allowed discrimination on the Internet.”

Franken went on to say, “And if corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet, or they are allowed to block applications you access on your iPhone, there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech.”

But, we won’t know until the FCC’s secret vote on net neutrality is made public. [Update: They voted for net neutrality 3-2, but with many loopholes.] They claim to be representing the public interest on this measure, but we cannot be sure because of the secret negotiations and voting process. And so the question that must be asked is this:  What is a non-elected bureaucracy like the FCC doing making decisions that effect the country and the very nature of the internet?

We don’t elect FCC officials, and yet their debate and voting process remain hidden from the public. According to CNN’s Amy Gahran, Telecom industry analyst Peter Pratt has filed a Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the FCC’s order, but hasn’t received notice yet. We are told that in setting public policy, back room deals are essential to the process, but we all know what is happening in the FCC’s negotiations on net neutrality: lobbying on behalf of AT&T, Comcast and other Internet service providers.

The process should have been opened to the public, but such is the state of American representative democracy these days.  Every single matter that effects Americans lives in this sham republic is decided without our involvement or knowledge.  When you ask for representative democracy instead of direct democracy, when you cede the responsibility to be active in decision-making processes, this is what you get.

Genachowski has been quoted as saying “I’ve been clear repeatedly that we’re not going to regulate the Internet.”

We’ll have to wait and see.

[Image via Gizmodo]