Friday, June 09, 2006

Casting an Increasingly Narrow Net

It seems like just a few days since I wrote to my senators and representative about a matter of high importance. I used to rant to all of you about them, but, frankly, none of you ever did dick to make things better. Now I’m going over your head.

Not that I’m kidding myself that these guys care. Every elected representative has one primary agenda item: get re-elected. Senator Sarbanes is retiring this year, so that doesn’t apply to him, yet he is the only one of the three to reply to my last letter. All right, I know it wasn’t really him, it was his office, but it was a nice note, written with an eye toward allowing the less enlightened to delude themselves.

Today the Washington Post ran an op-ed piece about legislation before Congress that would allow a handful of major telecommunication companies to control access to the Internet. (For more on this, visit the Post’s website at

Here’s the note I wrote to my elected representatives. I know they don’t care what I think, and they don’t care what you think. Enough of us get mad enough, and they might care what we think. Go ahead. If you have time to read this and half of the other crap you skim or watch on TV each day, you can write a letter.

As the gap between the richest and poorest continues to grow, the Internet has become a prime method for economic and educational advancement by those who may not have the resources for more formal education, or traditional

business opportunities. Pending legislation eliminating net neutrality endangers these opportunities.

Allowing telecommunications companies to control Internet access essentially makes them censors of the Internet. They may dispute this, but we have an excellent of their good intentions in our own back yard: Comcast’s refusal to

provide its cable customers with access to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) because MASN is a competitor of Comcast Sports Net. Other cable companies have refused specific programming that differed with their corporate agendas. This legislation would allow them the same control of the Internet.

Aside from the educational and economic opportunities, the Internet has become the ultimate safeguard of our First Amendment rights. Allowing large telecommunications companies to provide access based on the content provider’s ability to pay (or their political, religious, or personal convictions) has the grim potential to shackle large avenues of open discourse. This is anathema to the values America holds most dear.

In these times of domestic surveillance and government credibility gaps, an unfettered Internet serves a valuable function. Maryland is fortunate to have someone of your experience and considerable influence to represent us.

Please take advantage of the respect and influence you have earned from your peers to help to defeat this restrictive and un-American legislation.


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