Itâ€™s not just the biggest phone and cable companies opposing a open Internet (net neutrality). Itâ€™s also the wireless industryâ€”including companies providing cellular and mobile communications. One of the principal characteristics of our expanding ubiquitous digital media environment will be its reachâ€”on the street, in transport, and everyplace else. New forms of political action and cultural expression could evolve if the U.S. can have a non-discriminatory mobile environment.
But thatâ€™s not what the CTIA-The Wireless Association wants. They are opposing network neutrality safeguards. In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month, CTIAâ€™s chief Steve Largent warned of â€œmany of the unintended consequences that would flow from some of the Net Neutrality regulations being considered [that] would have a particularly negative impact on wireless consumers.â€ What Largent really meant was that the wireless industry hopes to impose the same kind of toll booth regime for mobile communications. In their vision, ads and content supported by a McDonalds, P&G soap, Fox News or Disney will have preferential access. CTIAâ€™s board includes T-Mobile, Cingular (AT&T), Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless and most of the key manufacturers. As we mentioned in yesterday’s entry, CTIA is also a member of the anti-open Internet group called netcompetition.org. (It’s time, by the way, we had a real anti-trust investigation of the mobile industry).
The united front of cable, wireless phone and wireless/mobile companies fighting against network neutrality is a good example of why we need serious policy safeguards (going beyond network neutrality) to protect freedom of communications in the U.S. Without such rules, the civic potential of Howard Rheingoldâ€™s Smart Mobs will be thwarted by powerful commercial forces.