Progressive Bloggers Get Progress Report On Net Neutrality At Netroots Nation

BY Heather Greenfield
August 18, 2010

James Rucker, co-founder of Color of Change, told progressive bloggers Thursday the FCC is trying to guarantee a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies. But he said some of the big Internet Access Providers “are fighting tooth and nail to make sure the FCC can’t institutionalize these protections.”

Rucker spoke to a room full of bloggers as part of a panel on Internet Freedom at the 5th annual Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas. He gave a summary of the latest developments in the battle for keeping the Internet open by passing net neutrality rules. He said some members of Congress don’t see the value of democracy on the Internet. He said others see the value, but that getting re-elected takes money and the big phone and cable companies have lots to contribute.

He and others in the audience emphasized how critical keeping open access to the Internet is – especially in light of the recent court decision in the Comcast case which may have weakened the clarity of the FCC’s authority to protect consumers’ Internet access.

“This conversation and what’s at stake is huge”, but the public is not engaged or well enough informed to counter the huge efforts of these companies, Rucker said.

Major IAPs like to say they need to find new ways to charge more for Internet access and services so that they can afford to build out high speed broadband to less profitable areas. They also say it would cost jobs if they can’t increase their revenue stream at a time when some of their traditional ways to charge customers are evaporating as more people give up landline phone service and use the Internet or wireless phones for calls.

Rucker countered by pointing out the job losses and the loss of the next new online sites and services like the next Google or Facebook if the major IAPs have their way on this. He said the problem with getting more people fighting for consumers on net neutrality is that the issues is ripe for misinformation and people focus on the myths of broadband expansion rather than on the power of Internet freedom.

Harold Feld, who blogs on telecom policy at Public Knowledge, said the Netroots must take a more active role in spreading the word and lobbying on net neutrality “because this is one of the most winnable fights we have on our plate.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid address the group of about 2000 progressive activists and bloggers Saturday along with Sen. Al. Franken, D-Minn., a netroots favorite.

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