“The Beginning of the End” – Obama Abandons Internet Freedoms

When he was running for office, nurse President Barack Obama said the following of Internet freedoms in the US:

“I am a strong supporter of net neutrality… What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says [Internet providers] should be able to be gatekeepers and able to charge different rates to different websites… so you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet — which is that there is this incredible equality there… as president I’m going to make sure that is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward.”

Sounds like the president forgot to pass on the new approach to Julius Genachowski, artificial the man he appointed chairman of the the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Last week Genachowski, who has met more with telecommunications executives than anyone else, caved like a deer in headlights with the release of his new ‘regulations’ for US providers of Internet, cable and phone services, which don’t meet any acceptable standard of net neutrality and are about as robust and enforceable as those ‘Please Don’t Feed the Ducks’ sign at the local pond.

Telecommunications executives seem swimmingly happy about the new proposals, and President Obama put a lovely spin on it.

But in what activists are calling the “Net Neutrality sellout”, under the FCC’s new rules cable and phone providers will be able to sell ‘Internet prioritization’ to the highest bidder, meaning one company could pay to provide Internet users with faster or higher quality access to their products than those of their competitors. The FCC rules also allow for “specialized services”, a loophole which already allows cable and phone providers to create fast and slow lanes for the Internet. Net neutrality activists say that even those aspects of the new FCC rules seemingly set to regulate the industry actually have no teeth, and do not even apply to wireless Internet services.

Put simply, the free and open Internet as all those reading this currently know it, is about to radically change. Internet service providers will be able to choose which websites you can easily and quickly access based on how much the owners of those sites are willing to pay.

The Save the Internet Coalition, an initiative of the media reform group Free Press with two million supporters, is working overtime to stop the weak rules from passing in a December 21 FCC vote.

“What net neutrality essentially says is that the companies that bring you the Internet into your home or business cannot indiscriminately say ‘this is gonna move fast, this is gonna move slow, and that’s our decision in order to make more money,'” Josh Silver, co-founder Free Press told Democracy Now. “They want to monetize the Internet by getting rid of rules that prevent them from creating fast lanes and slow lanes.”

“This is the beginning of the end, it’s the first domino if you will,” he continued. “The FCC Chairman has introduced a set of rules that are rot with loopholes, that would essentially be the end of the Internet as we know it… It allows these companies to prioritize content at will, and it doesn’t apply at all to wireless connections which are the future of the Internet.”

Their petition on Change.org calls on FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn to extend full Net Neutrality protections to both wired and wireless Internet users, to prohibit phone and cable companies from selling “paid prioritization” schemes, to close the “specialized services” loopholes and to firm up the legal language used in the FCC rules.

Please sign the petition below, and if you can check out the Save the Internet Coalition‘s many ideas for getting more involved, including how to lobby your elected officials on net neutrality

GOT A TIP FOR US? Is there a story or campaign in your area that we’d want to know about? E-mail us at humanrightstips@change.org. Please also follow Change.org’s Human Rights page on Facebook and Twitter. Photo credit: Free Press