Dec 1, 2007

Internet Freedom

A few of you may know about these issues, but for those who don't or want to learn more, I post this essay by Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, complete with links to supporting documentation. Please read it.

I think it is one of the most important issues for our Democracy, and although it is presented from a liberal's point of view, the same threat is perceived by Conservative, Libertarian, and Conservative writers and speakers all over the Country--including a few Republicans.

The Internet is what places our enormous society squarely into the varied and free press situation that existed at the beginning of our country. To allow monopolies to dominate the Internet and begin a fee-based imposition will hamper your ability to express yourself, to communicate freely with friends and organization, your ability to advertise your business interests, and, perhaps worst of all, will stifle electronic innovation.
This is a serious issue, and your taking the time to send messages to your Congress critters will help them resist monopoly media's concerted lobbying pressures.
Fight the Good fight.
Save the Internet, Preserve Internet Liberty

We all know the drawbacks of corporate news outlets, and the great blessing that the internet represents for grassroots organizing and information sharing. But of course, the big corporations are very unhappy about losing some control of these matters, and have been pushing for legislation to end internet liberty and make it into the Corporate Monopoly Internet (CMI), cutting out individuals and small groups.

Some may think the word "monopoly" an exaggeration. But all private television news broadcasts are owned by only five corporations in the United States. Five is too little for healthy competition, and all five disallow centrist and progressive points of view as most Americans would define them (i.e. the range of acceptable opinion on the US airwaves is from center-right to far right). Opinion polling decisively shows that the American public is very substantially to the left of virtually all television broadcasts with a social or political content. Yet of the three cable news networks, 2 are center-right and 1 is far right!

Those who argue that the Five Sisters' monopoly is not so bad, given that they don't control a lot of the major newspapers or wire services are ignoring a simple fact. Most Americans get their news from television, and newspapers' readership is rapidly falling. The monopoly is real, and it explains everything about why BushRove were able to propagandize us into the Iraq War. Likewise, the Five Sisters' Monopoly benefits the Republican Party, since the central concerns of key Democratic Party constituencies such as organized labor (an unorganized labor), urban community groups, African Americans, and Asians and Latinos, feminists, etc. are given little exposure on the airwaves. When's the last time you saw a factory worker presented in a positive light on corporate television? Why did CNN front load the Republican debate with the immigration issue, which polls show is not at the forefront of American concerns the way the Iraq War is?

This extreme bias is one reason Ed Markey is right to make Internet Liberty an element in the 08 political campaign.The narrowing of the range of public views in the media is a direct result of the Five Sisters' Monopoly.So how could they Corporatize the internet and exclude our voices? They could set it up so that, for instance, if you couldn't come up with $100,000 a year, they could arrange for it to take 5 minutes for your web site to load, while Corporate Monopoly web sites loaded immediately. (Studies show that readers are unwilling to wait more than a few seconds for sites to load, after which they move on.) That move would not only destroy the blogosphere, but it would get rid of YouTube and similar video-posting sites, as well.

Or, they might decline to carry the bigger video files by p2p (as with Comcast, which actually lied to its subscribers that the download was unavailable with a spoofed email purporting to come from the poster!). Comcast is the same corporation that shoves Fox Cable News down our throats but won't let us see the direct BBC feed as part of our basic package, much less Aljazeera English.

Not only are there too few companies providing broadcast news, but there are too few cable and satellite corporations. Comcast is even angry at an FCC ruling that limits them to providing cable services to only 1/3 of the US! They do sweetheart deals with Time Warner and Disney, which ensure we have to have things like the Gardening Channel, using up space that could have been used for real news.

Save the Internet is a key site for organizing to stop the imposition of a Corporate Monopoly on the Internet.Join the campaign to make sure Congress knows how we feel, and send them a message here.We may well live in a little bubble of Internet Liberty (what some call 'net neutrality,' but that is a term I find too cold and technical to describe what I value in our current internet freedoms).

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