Column: Internet is today’s First Amendment issueIf we learned that the government was planning to limit our First Amendment rights, we’d be outraged.
By: Al Franken, Minneapolis, The Republican Eagle
If we learned that the government was planning to limit our First Amendment rights, we’d be outraged. Well, our rights are under attack - not from the government but from corporations seeking to control the flow of information online.
I believe that net neutrality, preserving a free and open Internet, is the First Amendment issue of our time. Today, a blog can load as fast as the Wall Street Journal — and, if the blog is good, it can get more traffic than any media conglomerate.
A small Minnesota bookstore’s website loads just as fast as Amazon.com. That’s because right now Internet service providers don’t discriminate between different kinds of content online. So if you have something to say or a product to sell, there is currently no limit to how influential or successful you can be.
But the nation’s largest telephone, Internet, and media companies have a different plan for the Internet. Instead of a level playing field, these companies have made clear they plan to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those of big corporations that can afford to pay a higher price — and leave Minnesota’s consumers and small businesses in the slow lane.
The more media consolidation that happens, like the pending NBC/Comcast merger, the worse things will get. When the same company owns the programming and runs the pipes that bring us that programming, it further increases their control over what content consumers can get.
A corporation’s motive - it’s affirmative legal duty - is always going to be promoting its bottom line. But that’s exactly why we can’t let companies write the rules that they’re supposed to follow. Because if that happens those rules are only going to protect corporations, not the public interest.
Right now, the corporations currently are lobbying the Federal Communications Commission and Congress for special rules written in their favor.
FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn came to Minneapolis recently for a meeting on “net neutrality,” and I and many other Minnesotans urged them to keep the Internet free and open.
But a lot more of us need to speak up if we hope to match those corporate lobbyists. Visit Franken.senate.gov to learn how you can help.
Al Franken, DFL-Minn., can be reached at (202) 224-5641, (651) 645-0323 or www.senate.gov/franken/contact/