Net neutrality advocates put pressure on lawmakers

Members of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee rejected a network neutrality amendment to a wide-ranging broadband bill on June 28, but it turns out that’s not the last they’re hearing of the issue.

Since that vote, a group of organizations supporting a net neutrality law have cranked up a pressure campaign on the 11 Republican senators who voted against the net neutrality amendment, which sponsors wanted to add to the broadband bill.

Organizations including the liberal MoveOn.org and the conservative Christian Coalition of America and others involved in the SavetheInternet.com coalition have urged members to contact senators and express their displeasure over the net neutrality vote.

“Thousands” of people have contacted their senators, said Adam Green, a spokesman for MoveOn.org.

Nora Miller, a freelance writer and editor from Arizona, is one of them. Miller has contacted two Republican lawmakers, including Senator John McCain of Arizona.

“My biggest concern is that this law … minus any protection of net neutrality, amounts to a giant giveaway to telecom companies that do not have my best interests at heart,” she said in an e-mail. “My federal dollars created the Internet specifically to provide free and equal access to all users.”

Opponents of a net neutrality law, including large broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast, say a law isn’t needed because they do not plan to block or degrade Web content. A net neutrality law would prevent them from exploring new business plans such as charging Web sites new fees for priority speeds and a higher quality of service, and those new business plans are needed to build next-generation broadband networks, providers say.

Miller has no problem with broadband providers making profits, she said. “I have a huge problem with the idea that they might be able to decide whose Web sites I can access, based solely on how much I pay them or how much the Web site pays them. We do not need corporate greed and corporate censorship interfering with what should still be viewed as an essentially public resource.”

Vicki Billing, an Arizona real estate agent, also said she contacted McCain’s office. She depends on the Internet for her job, she added.

“I’m concerned that the Internet will significantly change without net neutrality legislation,” Billing said. “I worry that those who lack deep pockets will be relegated to the slow lane in the information superhighway. Internet users will find it difficult and tedious to access sites not belonging to the large corporations that currently control the media.”

McCain’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments about the MoveOn.org efforts. The offices of two other Republican lawmakers targeted by the group, Senators Conrad Burns of Montana and George Allen of Virginia, also did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

Some of the people contacting lawmakers about net neutrality say it will be an important issue as they vote in the U.S. November elections.

The issue could hit her pocketbook, Miller said. A lawmaker who “puts corporate pressure above the needs of free access to a fundamentally public resource would not get my vote,” she said.

A vote against net neutrality wouldn’t be the only issue important to semiretired engineer, executive and professor Gordon Geiger, also of Arizona, but it would have an influence, he said.

“I use the Internet to find teaching materials, order all sorts of items that are not available in Tucson stores, communicate widely and keep up with world events,” he said. “As far as I am concerned the government paid to develop the Internet, and there is no excuse to turn it over to business interests.”

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