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BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, April 24 2006

It's time to stand up and be counted, because the corporations who still think of the internet as an "information highway" want the power to set up toll booths and private speedways for their own content or that of high-paying customers, to the detriment of all of us. As Vint Cerf pointed out in a letter to Congressmen Joe Barton and John Dingell, whose Energy and Commerce Committee is pushing legislation drafted by the telcos that would wreak havoc:

The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation....Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.

Unfortunately, thanks to their money and lobbying muscle, the telcos could push their plans thru Congress unless everyone who depends on its open and neutral structure speaks up.

Join groups like Free Press, Gun Owners of America, Consumers Union, Civic Action, the American Library Association and leaders like Larry Lessig, Tim Wu, Susan Crawford, Craig Newmark, and Glenn Reynolds and add your support to the SavetheInternet Coalition, whose statement of principles reads:

We believe that the Internet is a crucial engine for economic growth and democratic discourse. We urge Congress to take steps now to preserve network neutrality, a guiding principle of the Internet, and to ensure that the Internet remains open to innovation and progress.

Network neutrality is the Internet's First Amendment. Without it, the Internet is at risk of losing the openness and accessibility that has revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation and free speech.

From its beginnings, the Internet was built on a cooperative, democratic ideal. It has leveled the playing field for all comers. Everyday people can have their voices heard by thousands, even millions of people. Network neutrality has prevented gatekeepers from blocking or discriminating against new economic, political and social ideas.

The major telecommunications legislation now under consideration in Congress must include meaningful and enforceable network neutrality requirements to keep the Internet free and open to all.