Sen. Al Franken on Net Neutrality and Media Consolidation
On Aug. 19th, 2010 Senator Al Franken spoke at a town hall meeting (before hundreds of citizens in Minneapolis) about the dangers of allowing a few large corporate interests to become the gatekeepers, determining who can distribute content on the Internet and TV.
Senator Franken's starting point was net neutrality (i.e., how to ensure that we all continue to have unrestricted access to all the lawful information, services, and applications available on the Internet, without service providers blocking or degrading such access, or favoring some content - such as their own - over others). But Senator Franken also went on to speak about the affect that a proposed takeover of NBC by Comcast would have. In Senator Franken's view these issues are related, because they both affect consumers access to independently produced content and both net neutrality and the Comcast/NBC deal are before the FCC right now.
Net neutrality has received much attention in August 2010 because of a proposal from Google and Verizon that would create tiers of service on the wireless Internet (making it harder for filmmakers to self-distribute and for bloggers to reach their readers). While the Google/Verizon proposal would essentially keep access to the wired Internet open, their new rules for the wireless Internet would allow the big telecoms to discriminate against certain content on their wireless broadband networks. This is a huge issue for anyone who is producing content today because wireless networks are becoming the access technology for the next generation of devices and services. If wireless providers won't allow access to your content, you won't be able to reach your audience in an increasingly wireless world.
In his Aug. 19th, 2010 speech, Senator Franken said: “We can’t let companies write the rules that we the people are supposed to follow. Because if that happens those rules will be written only to protect corporations." Senator Franken pointed to the death of independently produced content on TV after the Fin-Syn rules (government regulation that limited the amount of prime-time programming the networks could produce themselves) were eliminated in the 1990s. 15 years after the big media companies killed off small independent television producers in favor of their own content, Senator Franken fears the same thing could happen on the Internet if net neutrality is not enforced by the government. What do you think?