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Time for FCC chair to man up

Backspin By , Network World
September 17, 2010 10:23 AM ET
Gibbs

Network World - It's time for the chairman of the FCC to stand up and do the right thing on net neutrality -- to do the thing he set out to do --  even as Big Comms increase the political pressure and their spending to block it.

Indeed, it has become glaringly obvious Big Comms (i.e. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are putting a huge amount of pressure on those who animate the U.S. political machine by funneling tons of cash into lobbying.

How the FCC can still move on net neutrality

By way of example, according to The Center for Public Integrity, "the single top career backer of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) was telecom giant AT&T.

This backing came in the form of contributions from companies such as BellSouth, Cingular and SBC that are now part of AT&T. AT&T's PACs contributed more than $525,000 in campaign cash to just these three. Of course, this kind of corporate underwriting doesn't come without some serious strings attached -- long, sticky strings -- which are obvious from the voting records and stated positions of all of these politicians.

I have to mention a message I just received from ColorOfChange.org, which asked for recipients to sign a petition asking the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to stand in favor of net neutrality. ColorOfChange argues that "The Internet has created huge opportunities for Black people and all Americans. But some Black members of Congress are helping big phone and cable companies attack the open Internet."

ColorOfChange's message cited two CBC members who are against net neutrality: Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY) whose biggest donors include AT&T and Verizon and who, according to the organization, sponsored "an industry-backed letter -- written after consulting [with] AT&T -- designed to weaken support for Internet freedom"; and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) who has counted AT&T as one of his largest donors and who has a track record of being opposed to net neutrality.

As ColorOfChange argues, "Some cynical voices may say that this appearance of quid pro quo is unremarkable because it's just the way Washington works. But we must demand more of our elected representatives, especially those who claim to represent the interests of Black communities as the legacy of the civil rights movement and the ‘conscience of the Congress.'" I urge you to sign the ColorOfChange's petition.

One of the problems with the whole net neutrality brouhaha is that it involves sophisticated technology which, as Arthur C. Clarke noted, "is indistinguishable from magic." This means that once the arguments get framed in technical terms countless opportunities for spin and disinformation become available because only a handful of people really take the time to understand the issues.

Just consider the recent press release from Free Pres, a very vocal proponent of net neutrality whose work I greatly admire, discussing an FCC filing by AT&T.

The AT&T filing argues "paid prioritization is expressly contemplated by the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF)" because 30 years ago the IETF "included a 'type of service' field within the Internet Protocol to enable prioritization of real-time and other performance-sensitive applications. It updated that capability in 1998 [RFCs 2474 and 2475] by creating the 'differentiated service code point' field, generally referred to as 'DSCP' or DiffServ."

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