Sunday, January 23, 2011

Franken: Net Neutrality, Comcast-NBC Deal Threaten the Web

By: Chloe Albanesius
PC Mag

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken this week lashed out against two issues he said are a major threat to the openness of the Internet: the FCC's recent net neutrality rules and the Comcast-NBC Universal deal.

"I believe we are facing and will continue to face a growing threat of corporate control on the flow of information in our country," Franken said this week at the second Netroots Nation MN Conference.

One of those threats, he said, are the FCC's net neutrality rules, which were approved in late December.

"These rules are not strong enough," Franken said, pointing to what he considers to be weak provisions concerning wireless, as well as the lack of a flat-out ban on paid prioritization. "This is the first time the FCC has ever allowed discrimination on the Internet."

"The FCC's new rule, to me, is a big disappointment," Franken said. "We expected better from this commission and this chairman, who promised that net neutrality would be a priority. My only hope here is that this is just a first step and the FCC will go after every single company that violates the letter or spirit of this rule."

The FCC approved its rules last month along party lines. The order provides three high-level rules: transparency; no blocking; and no unreasonable discrimination. The order received support from Chairman Julius Genachowski and Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, but was not approved by Republican commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith A. Baker.

The rules differ slightly for fixed versus wireless. Fixed providers cannot block lawful content, apps, services, or "non-harmful" devices, or charge providers of these services for delivering traffic to and from their networks. Wireless providers, meanwhile, cannot block access to lawful Web sites or block apps that compete with their own voice or video telephony services. It does not apply to mobile broadband app stores.

This "will allow mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon to completely block content and applications whenever it suits them – for either political or business reasons," Franken said. "This is unacceptable and it will ultimately mean that rural communities that rely on wireless Internet service will see an entirely different Internet."

Franken was also annoyed that paid prioritization was not banned outright. The whole idea behind net neutrality is that everyone has equal access to the Web; a wealthy company like Amazon should not be able to pay to have their Web site load faster than a mom-and-pop e-commerce site. While this practice of paid prioritization is not strictly banned in the net neutrality rules, the FCC said that it would likely be deemed unreasonable.

Franken suggested that major companies will be willing to test these limits.

"Big corporations shouldn't be able to decide who wins or loses on the Internet," he said. "Rupert Murdoch may very well be able to pay to have his Web sites load faster than yours and put you out of business. That is not right and that is just plain dangerous."

Franken's views are a stark contrast to his GOP counterparts. In the wake of the FCC passing its rules, Republicans vowed to take them down via legislation - but because they were too intrusive and unnecessary.

Franken, a Democrat, was also skeptical of the Comcast-NBC merger. "I hate this merger," he said bluntly.

The deal had not been approved by the FCC and Department of Justice at the time of his speech, but both agencies gave their blessings yesterday, with conditions.

Franken said a combined Comcast-NBCU will lead to higher cable prices, hurt small providers, and prompt cable channels to accept fewer licensing dollars just to reach Comcast's 23 million customers. He also said Comcast has every incentive to kill Netflix.

"I'm hearing that Comcast is already planning to pull NBC-Universal's programming from Netflix when it's next up for review," he said. "When Comcast asks, the big guys will follow."

This deal will also lead to other similar mergers, Franken said. "Make no mistake; if this merger is approved, it will only be a matter of time before we see AT&T trying to buy ABC-Disney or Verizon trying to buy CBS-Viacom," he said. "And you know what these companies will say? They'll say well, you let Comcast and NBC do it; now it's our turn, and what will the FCC or DOJ have to say then?"

"We are at a pivotal moment in our nation's history and we need to stop the cascade of dominos that will forever change how we access information. I fear that most Americans don't understand what the stakes are," Franken concluded.

Do you feel Media is giving us the truth or is it all corporate controlled?


Dear Steven,

A big disappointment today: The FCC and the Department of Justice have signed off on the Comcast/NBC merger, paving the way for a single enormous media conglomerate to obtain unprecedented control over the flow of information in our country.

I’ll be candid with you: This is an awful development for those of us who care about media consolidation. It will restrict your freedom of choice and raise your cable and Internet bills. And it could pave the way for even more media mergers and even less room for independent voices in the media.

But the fight’s not over. We’re building a grassroots movement to stand up to the special interests and stand up for middle class consumers. And every time an American learns more about what’s at stake in this fight, our movement grows stronger.

Help to strengthen our grassroots movement -- share this message on FACEBOOK and TWITTER!

I know that these corporate elites have all the money and lots of influence -- even, it appears, with President Obama’s Department of Justice and an FCC chaired by one of his appointees.

And I know that this decision only validates their efforts to silence critics and punish dissenters.

But I’ve also seen how hard many of you worked to raise our collective voices and warn of the danger posed by corporate control of the media. And I’m confident that, if we take today’s setback as a cue to work even harder, we’ll win in the end and keep our media free.

I’ll be in touch soon to talk about next steps.

Thanks for standing with me,

Al Franken

P.S. -- Remember, we can only stand up to the financial power of the corporate special interests with people power. So please share this message on Facebook and Twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I want to hear from you but any comment that advocates violence, illegal activity or that contains advertisements that do not promote activism or awareness, will be deleted.