Friday, July 14, 2006

Wyden Hits the Floor for Net Neutrality

Sen. Wyden's staff have been good enough to pass along the text of the Senator's speech this morning on the floor regarding net neutrality. Talk about an overdue primer--somebody with more than a hilariously half-informed grasp of how the internet works was desperately needed in the Senate. Hopefully Wyden's colleague across the aisle was listening; he could use the lesson.

I was tempted to post the entire transcript, but for brevity's sake I'll hit the highlights:
The bottom line about this concept is pretty simple. It means that there will not be discrimination on the Internet. Today, after you pay your access charge -- your Internet access fee -- you get to take your browser and you get to go where you want when you want. And everybody is treated the same. The mightiest person in the land, the most affluent, and somebody, say, in rural Georgia or rural Oregon who doesn't have a lot of the power and doesn't have a lot of wealth – the Internet has been a huge step forward, in my view, for democracy, for the proposition our country is based on, which is to give everybody a fair shake; everybody is treated equally. And it has meant, I think, a real bonanza for our citizens, education, business, and a whole host of fields. And unless there is a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet, and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate on-line, in my view, the Internet would be changed forever for the worse, and I intend to do everything in my power to keep that from happening.

Bandwidth speeds are getting faster and faster, allowing all this content to reach the users faster. But bandwidth, without content, is like a swimming pool without water. It's there, but you can't do anything with it. So the real net neutrality fight, Mr. President, is going to be about content.

What the cable and phone executives propose is that instead of providing equal access for everyone to the same content at the same price, they're going to be in a position to cut sweetheart deals, to give somebody that they favor a better break than somebody who they don't look upon in the same way. Those who own the pipes don't want to be told they can't discriminate. They don't want to be told by the congress or anybody else, sweetheart deals are off-limits.

We're going to hear a lot about this issue in the days ahead. We're going to be told constantly that the phone and cable people will not build out the network unless they can sock the consumer and the small businesses with higher access charges. I tell you, I think that the way the system works today, where there's a true free marketplace, where the mightiest is treated on-line the same way someone is treated who doesn't have a lot of money and doesn't have clout, that's what I think is the best way to grow the network, expand communications opportunities in our country, preserve the free marketplace so that people after they pay that Internet access charge can go where they want, when they want.

As we discuss this communications issue, there will be a lot of talk about how this is a battle between big communications lobbies, say, the Verizon company and Google. That's sometimes portrayed as a fight just between these big dogs. People have got a lot of clout and they just want to divide up the pie and get more for themselves. I'll tell the Senate that Verizon and Google can take care of themselves. They've got deep pockets; they've got lots of clout.

But what I’m concerned about are the future Googles, the people who are dreaming, the people with the start ups, the people with innovative, cutting-edge ideas who have been able to go on line and as a result been successful. That's what the American dream is all about. That's what's made the Internet so excited. It's created opportunities for those kinds of people who are a long way from major financial markets, who don't have deep pockets. I do not want to see the American people face double-barrel discrimination and higher prices on the net. I don't want to see them not have what they have today, which is a fair shake for all, equal content, gets equal treatment.