McCain’s “Internet Freedom Act” Promotes Anything But

October 23, 2009

Yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill that would allow Internet service providers to throttle or block content and applications as they see fit. This is an attempt to prevent the “Net Neutrality” you’ve likely heard about, which McCain dismisses as a “government takeover” of the internet.

McCain, who is just “learning to get online [him]self,” introduced the legislation on the same day that the FCC decided to move forward on an official Net Neutrality policy. This bill would prevent that.

If Net Neutrality isn't ensured, telcos may soon be able to block certain websites entirely, or sell content providers faster, ‘premium’ access to their customers. As for the probable results of letting the foxes administer the henhouse, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark put it better than I can:

“Here’s a real world example that shows how this would work. Let’s say you call Joe’s Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you’ll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That’s not fair, right? You called Joe’s and want some Joe’s pizza. Well, that’s how some telecommunications executives want the Internet to operate, with some Web sites easier to access than others. For them, this would be a money-making regime.”

To paraphrase Cory Doctorow in a lecture I don’t care to track down, this, for the consumer, has all the dignity of being traded to another prisoner for a pack of cigarettes. Between Time Warner and AT&T mobile, I shell out nearly $80/month for internet access. For this, I expect the content I want, delivered at the fastest speed the network can manage. I have no interest in becoming fungible currency in an racket to demand higher fees from content providers. I want the Internet I grew up with— the one that’s free as in freedom and free as in beer .

For the moment, we at CFI don’t need to worry about your ISP ’s opinions or interests before posting anything we like on our various web properties. If Senator McCain has his way, that may change. I encourage you all to sign the petition and contact your legislators at .

Disclaimer: CFI does not have an official position on this legislation. As with all entries on Free Thinking , the opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of CFI. This call to action is a personal plea from a developer who has benefited from a free and open internet.


#1 Rachel (Guest) on Saturday October 24, 2009 at 8:33am

In addition to signing the petition, let’s speak the language that Corporate America understands: Money. There are some smaller, local ISPs that we can switch to, if available. In the short run, it might be a bit more expensive since they can’t match the low, low teaser prices.  But over the long-run locally owned might be worth it (and I found out that my ISP reduces the price for their services when it becomes cheaper for them to offer it - unheard of!). Here’s one way to find a small ISP: Search a database put together by CA ISP.

#2 gray1 on Sunday October 25, 2009 at 8:55pm

And notice how well the McCain-Feingold campaign finance deal has worked to save us all.  Can we see a connection here as both relate to keeping the powerful in power?

#3 MrEmbiggen on Sunday October 25, 2009 at 9:02pm

The same thing is happening here in Australia with the Government backing what’s called the Clean Feed. Effectively it amounts to a firewall between us and the rest of the world and several thousand websites deemed to be illegal (yes you can be arrested for going to them though they won’t tell you which one’s they are).

#4 Steve W. (Guest) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 at 4:41pm

I’ve seen all of this talk about “Net Neutrality” and how it might lead to corporate censorship.  Where exactly is the evidence of this? 

My big concern with this is how it would affect people with limited incomes, like myself.  I have a DSL connection that costs about $18 a month and a basic cell phone (no landline) that costs about $25 a month.  It doesn’t really bother me that my emails could possibly come a few seconds later than they would have under a net neutrality system.  I generally don’t download movies or other large files.

If some neighbor wants to pay more so he can get faster service and download those big files quickly, what’s wrong with that?  It seems to me a reasonable proposition to find a way to give large files a pathyway that would give them priority to people who have the ability and willingness to pay for speedy service.  My thinking is companies are able to provide a more tiered service to higher paying companies, the profits may allow them to lower the price on the low-tiered services like DSL, which would allow more lower income families to get internet access and help lower the “digital divide” and improve education and information access for them.  I already think that I pay too much as it is right now.  The lower costs could also help hard-pressed libraries that provide internet access to the poor and unemployed who don’t have any internet access at all.

In regards to the censorship issue, there could be regulations put in place that could prevent over-reaching corporate censorship.  But I would like to point out that there are premium cable channels for people willing to pay more and nobody complains about corporate censorship by not being allowed to watch those channels if they didn’t pay for it.  I think it would be perfectly acceptable if an Internet company would provide exclusive access to concerts/movies/events that it owns to try and entice people to buy those higher cost services.  I don’t even bother to get basic cable, because the cost is prohibitive. But that doesn’t mean that I would consider it censorship, not being able to see those programs.  My biggest fear would be corporations blocking news, political opinions, and other similar things they might not like.  Regulations could be put in place by the FCC to prevent things like that.

To sum up my biggest concern is the effect “net neutrality” has on the cost of lower income people.  Net neutrality seems to have this “trendy issue” aura around it but I don’t some of its proponents have thought out all of its consequences.  If somebody could address my concerns and show me exactly why we need this, I might change my opinion.  But right now I remain unconvinced of its necesity.

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