Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ex-Clinton press secretary becomes telcom advocate in "network neutrality" debate

Published: May 13, 2006

COLUMN: What's Online
HEADLINE: No Neutral Ground in Net Debate

The New York Times

ACCORDING to Arianna Huffington, the use of banal, insipid language could spell doom for the Internet.

It is not badly written blogs Ms. Huffington is worried about, but the concept "Net neutrality." Congress is debating whether to block Internet service providers from favoring some content providers over others. So, in theory, Time Warner or Verizon could prefer Yahoo over Google, or vice versa (or either of those over an upstart) by giving them more bandwidth in exchange for cash. The preferred sites would then run faster on PC's than those that do not pay.

Last week, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced the Network Neutrality Act of 2006, a bill backed by Amazon, Microsoft and other Web companies, as well as disparate interests like the Gun Owners of America and the liberal group Proposed legislation that could change the nature of how the Internet operates should be getting a lot more attention, Ms. Huffington wrote. And if it did, it would be instantly squashed. Why hasn't this happened? It's all in the name, she wrote. "Now, I understand that 'Net Neutrality' is a technical term used to describe the separation of content and network operations, but what political genius decided to run with such a clunky name? The marketing mavens behind the Kerry '04 campaign?"

The Huffington Post ( has become a clearinghouse for debate. Most contributors are in favor of Net neutrality. But the site has also included arguments from, for example, Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary who is chairman of Hands Off the Internet, a group financed by AT&T, BellSouth and other concerns and interest groups. The group calls itself "a nationwide coalition of Internet users" who oppose government regulation.

On Huffington, Adam Green of enumerated what he called lies from Mr. McCurry for example, that the Internet was currently "absent regulation" and that a neutrality law would alter the way the Internet operates. Mr. Green argued that the Net was already neutral, and it was the telecom companies that wanted that to change. Mr. McCurry decried the "culture and discourse of the Internet," referring to his detractors as "net neuts."

The telecom industry, he wrote, just wants the Net to be governed by economics, not government regulation. "Anyone want to have a rational conversation about that or do you want to rant and rave and provide a lot of May Day rhetoric that is not based in any fact?"


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