Net Neutrality in the Front Seat

We are now on the cusp of making history for an open Internet. But don’t tell that to the Wall Street Journal, which today published an article that portrayed the movement for Net Neutrality as losing steam.

Say what?

Obama: ‘Backseat to no one’
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In addition to the millions of Americans who have taken a stand in support of Net Neutrality, we have an incoming president who has pledged to “take a back seat to no one” in his commitment to Net Neutrality.

Morevover, several new members of Congress pledged their allegiance to Net Neutrality while getting elected. They all agree that the Internet should remain free and open to all users — that we should be able to visit any Web content without network operators or others blocking, impairing or degrading our connection.

Journal Story: Much Ado About Nothing

It’s no surprise then, as we are about to make history, that powerful forces are aligning to stop this fundamental change from happening. The Wall Street Journal story paints support for Net Neutrality as ebbing, confusing a Google plan to utilize “edge caching” technology as a fundamental violation of Net Neutrality by one of its biggest corporate supporters.

According to Google, the “secret” program referred to by the Journal is nothing more a content caching technology that has been going on for years. There is no prioritization, they write, nor is there an ISP choosing fast lanes and slow lanes. Hundreds of companies do this to move content geographically closer to end-users.

Google has been a moving target for phone and cable industry lobbyists and their hired shills. “The Wall Street Journal is playing vessel for the latest attack,” writes Karl Bode of Broadband Reports.

“It’s a nice win for whichever cable company leaked the news as it paints Google as a hypocrite ahead of next year’s renewed fight over network neutrality legislation,” Bode continues. “However, the Wall Street Journal is intentionally distorting Google’s proposal for political effect.”

(David Isenberg goes one step further, saying the Journal story set off his special detector, and Wired’s Nicholas Thompson takes the story apart piece by piece.)

The Public Mandate

If Google or any other tech company were secretly violating Net Neutrality, there would be an absolute and cataclysmic backlash from the grassroots and netroots who have made Net Neutrality a signature issue in 21st Century politics. The Internet community would come crashing down on their heads like Minutemen on Benedict Arnold.

Those covering this issue love to portray Net Neutrality as clash of corporate titans. But it’s not up to AT&T, Comcast — or Google — whether we have Net Neutrality. It’s up to the public, and we’re not giving up the fight for a free and open Internet.

The Journal story also implies that President-elect Barack Obama has softened his support for Net Neutrality. Where’s the evidence of that? Oddly, the journal doesn’t actually ask Obama or his transition team to comment.

Obama in the Driver’s Seat

We do know this though. The president-elect has made numerous public statements on the campaign trail and published a detailed policy document placing Net Neutrality as his top priority. He’s explicitly opposed paid “quality of service” arrangements and was also a co-sponsor of the Dorgan-Snowe bill that is the strongest Net Neutrality legislation ever proposed.

Contrary to claims of the Journal that Net Neutrality forces are receding, we are actually closer now than ever before to victory. We have arrived at the moment when Net Neutrality has its greatest appeal, clearest need, and best chance of becoming law.

Our opponents will try to divide and distract us. But now is not the time to retreat but to move forward.

UPDATE: On Monday, SavetheInternet.com asked its activists to write President-elect Obama and ask him to re-affirm his commitment to Net Neutrality. Later in the day he did. Read the report at “Talking Points Memo.”

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good