August 21, 2006

From Congress Poised to Unravel the Internet

[Thanks to Sir Real and his friend Travis for this story]

The U.S. leads the world in internet/telecommunications infrastructure--but consumers and businesses are being gouged for it.

According to market analysts, the costs US users pay for broadband service is more than eight times higher than what subscribers pay in Japan and South Korea. (Japanese consumers pay a mere 75 cents per megabit. South Koreans are charged only 73 cents. But US users are paying $6.10 per megabit. Internet service abroad is also much faster than it is here.)

Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens, the powerful Commerce Committee chair, is trying to line up votes for his "Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act." It was Stevens who called the Internet a "series of tubes" as he tried to explain his bill.

The real agenda of this Trojan Horse bill is two-fold: 1) to stifle competition and maintain the current monopolistic price structure; 2) to stifle the free flow of information outside the control of mainstream media gatekeepers. Stevens and his corporate pimps are going to try to ram this through in September, before a likely Democratic turnover in November.

But thanks to the work of groups like Save the Internet, many Senate Democrats now oppose the bill because of its failure to address net neutrality. (Disclosure: The Center for Digital Democracy, where I work, is a member of that coalition.) Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and South Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan have joined forces to protect the US Internet. Wyden has placed a "hold" on the bill, requiring Stevens (and the phone and cable lobbies) to strong-arm sixty colleagues to prevent a filibuster. But with a number of GOP senators in tight races now fearful of opposing net neutrality, the bill's chances for passage before the midterm election are slim. Stevens, however, may be able to gain enough support for passage when Congress returns for a lame-duck session.


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