It’s the 64 [Fill in the Amount] Question: Will Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Diller’s IAC, eBay, and Amazon Spend What it Takes to Sound the Alarm about Network Neutrality?

Will it be .64 cents or $6.4 million? With Congress soon coming back—and a possible Senate vote on network neutrality legislation just a few weeks away—it’s time for those who care about the democratic nature of U.S. digital communications to put up or…We think the public deserves to know what’s at stake (including, but beyond what Google felt it had to tell investors in its SEC filing). There should be full-page newspaper ads; 30-second spots on TV and radio; a major on-line ad campaign. The Works. Let’s tell the public what the companies know. That without network neutrality, the U.S. will not have a democratic Internet. That both diversity and competition will be harmed. That Congress is about to approve a massive give-away to a few special interests. That only a few years ago the Internet was rightly hailed as the “most participatory form of mass speech yet developed.” But that was the Internet with network neutrality. Without it, the Internet could become just a souped-up interactive cable TV-like service.

So. Messrs Gates, Schmidt, Semel, Bezos, Diller, and Ms. Whitman. What will be your legacy when it comes to network neutrality? Will it be that you courageously sounded the alarm—alerting the country to a real threat to our freedom? Or that you looked the other way, making deals while the Net’s future was decided behind closed doors?

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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