In a blow for freedom of information, the Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives voted down an amendment that would have protected ‘net neutrality,’ meaning that Internet service providers would have to provide their customers equal access to all websites. Major providers such as AT&T and Verizon have pushed to create a new economy on the Internet, requiring protection fees from organizations and individuals to ensure that their sites display properly. The House Committee sided with the business interests and passed the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE) without the protective Markley amendment, which failed by only 12 votes. This margin was slimmer than expected, with more Democratic support of net neutrality than in the subcommittee vote, which shows the effectiveness of grassroots organizing by progressive organizations and blogs.
Activists intend to continue pressuring Congress to protect a free exchange of information on the internet, as the COPE Act will now move to the floor for a House vote, and then to the Senate. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has come out in support of net neutrality, and growing public support for it could protect the Internet from the pay-to-play effects of media conglomeration.
A broad coalition of activist groups have formed SaveTheInternet.com to support guarantees of net neutrality. The bipartisan coalition includes such diverse entities as academic departments, nonprofits, prominent bloggers, and the American Library Association. Several major Internet companies have also joined the fight for net neutrality, including Yahoo!, Google, Amazon.com and eBay. Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, which is also promoting the fight for net neutrality, said “It’s shocking that the House continues to deny the will of the people on an issue that affects everyone so directly – protecting the free and open Internet.”
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