Open Internet groups declare national day of action

by James Temple, San Francisco Chronicle

Against the backdrop of the net neutrality debate and the developing National Broadband Plan, community groups across the country have declared Monday a "National Day of Action for Affordable, Open Internet."

Under the Feb. 15 initiative spearheaded by the Media Action Grassroots Network, advocates will visit members of Congress and sponsor discussions and "teach-ins" on the topics.

Open Internet advocates argue the Web should be an unfettered platform where users can reach all legal content and services in the manner of their choosing, without any influence or interference by their Internet access provider. The groups are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to pass a more stringent set of regulations to ensure this.

The FCC has already agreed to draft an updated set of so called net neutrality rules, over the fierce objections of telecom providers who say they need flexibility to manage and invest in their networks.

The issue has come to the fore as cases emerged of broadband providers choking off bandwidth for surfers using data-intensive tools like peer-to-peer file sharing, and mobile phone carriers erecting barriers to competing online calling services.

Separately, the grassroots groups are calling for the FCC's National Broadband Plan to include rules and resources that will extend fast and cheap Internet access to currently underserved communities, including poor and rural areas.

"It will give millions of poor people and people of color the chance to not only log-on to the Internet, but log-in to democracy," the press release said.

Google Inc. announced plans earlier this week to begin building and testing ultra-fast fiber networks, in an effort to spark additional innovation and competition in this arena.

Bay Area grass roots groups focused on these issues, including Oakland's Center for Media Justice, are calling for a full "Affordable Broadband Week of Action," starting on the 14th.

On Feb. 20 San Francisco's United Playaz will host a free meeting at 1038 Howard St. titled "What is Your Internet Story," from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will include a video booth to collect personal testimonies that will be submitted to the National Broadband Plan Task Force in Washington.

article originally published at San Francisco Chronicle.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey