Thu, 16 January 2014
US Court of Appeals: The Internet is a Plantation, With Comcast, Verizon, AT&T Its Masters
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“Network neutrality” on the internet is the idea that anyone can access it, with any device to view or contribute any content. Network neutrality is the foundation of the internet as we have known it. According to the federal court of appeals in DC, network neutrality on the internet is now over.
From this point on, the court has ruled, internet providers can levy extra tolls upon, slow down or , simply ban any content or any users they choose, for any reason whatsoever. Internet companies can now tell you which hardware and software devices, what kinds of computers, phones, programs and applications you may or may not use, and from which locations. The internet is now a plantation, with Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon its masters, and the rest of us serfs or worse.
This is one of those ground breaking, those earth shaking moments that reveal how capitalism works, how greedy corporations have captured the media, the courts and the other two bipartisan branches of government in these United States. This ruling is anything but a surprise. It's what the telecom companies have demanded for years, and what the administrations of President Bush and Obama alike seem determined to give them.
President Obama did campaign declaring he would take a back seat to nobody in fighting for network neutrality. The White House has occasionally, though increasingly feebly renewed that pledge. But Obama's first FCC chief was Julius Genakowski, a former telecom lobbyist who wrote the 1990s laws privatizing the internet backbone, which was built with taxpayer dollars, giving it to telecom companies like Comcast and AT&T for pennies on the dollar. Under this notorious privatizer, the FCC did almost nothing to assert the public right, to advance the public demand for a free and open internet, to head off this disastrous ruling of corporate rights over public property which was clearly in the pipeline. It's not the first time this or any president or Congress has campaigned on the public interest, but governed in the corporate interest, and telecom companies are always big campaign contributors.
This is an emergency. It's time for everyone with a computer, everyone with a cell phone, everyone who uses discount phone cards – those place calls over the internet – to insist, to demand of this president and this Congress that they protect the public's right to communicate with itself, that they protect the free and open internet upon which we all depend. You won't hear Al Sharpton, your other civil rights dinosaurs or the NAACP talk about this because they depend on telecom money.
The first necessary step in neutralizing this awful court ruling the corporations have purchased is a simple one. President Obama must instruct the FCC to reclassify broadband internet as a telecommunications service, so that it comes under existing laws which do preserve a measure of internet neutrality and freedom, and prevent Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from treating the internet like their company town or plantation and us as serfs. The president alone has this power, nobody can stop him if he decides to use it. This is the time.
For more and ongoing information on how to preserve the limited degree of internet freedom we now have, visit the web site of Free Press, at freepress.net. That freepress.net. Sign on to their alert list and let the White House and the FCC know that the internet cannot be a plantation, and you are not a serf.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA, and can be reached via the contact page at http://blackagendareport.com/contact or via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.