Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) told a Future of Music Coalition policy summit audience in Washington Monday that he will work with the FCC and the president to make network neutrality regs a reality, saying it is a 21st Century reiteration of the First Amendment.
He said the "Freedom and openness" that have been the Internet's hallmarks are under fire thants to ISPs who use "network managemenet" as code for "finding ways to squeeze more cash out of their networks.”
Borrowing discrimination phrase-turning from the Civil Rights movement, Franken said he was concerned that that a system where big companies paid for prioritized traffic would divide the Web into a system of "separate but unequal networks."
Franken said there were two main issues. Censorship and innovation. He called out Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon for engaging in censorship, likening them to Internet filterers in Iran.
As to innovation, he said that the problem wasn't just with what could be taken away, but what would never be created in the first place. He said that in a world where Google could pay a USP for premium access vs. a start-up like YouTube, Google Video might have prevailed even though it was "slow and clunky."
Franken, a comedian and former writer/performer on Saturday Night Live, pointed out he had copyrights of his own, and so understood the concerns of his audience--musicians and independent producers--about how protecting network neutrality fit in with battling online piracy.
He said that network neutrality must be explicitly about protecting lawful content and applications, including writing that into the law if necessary.
Franken called network neutrality "a necessary response to verifiable instances of ISPs discriminating against users based on the applications they use...It is a twenty-first century reiteration of one of our most important Constitutional rights – the right to free speech."
Also stumping for network neutrality was the man with the plan, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who borrowed from The Boss (Springsteen, not Obama), to make his point.
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