Seattle rocks the net as Inslee renews call for net neutrality

Representative Jay Inslee made a strong pitch for a neutral Internet today, as part of a teleconference for Rock the Net, a nationwide campaign to fight for net neutrality and derail legislation that threatens access to music and cultural programming online.

Inslee was joined by Nabil Ayers, owner of Sonic Boom record stores and independent record label The Control Group, and Jonathan Lawson, Executive Director of Reclaim the Media, both of Seattle. The teleconference also included musician Matt Nathanson, headlining a concert for Rock the Net at Seattle's Crocodile Café tonight, and Michael Bracy, Policy Director of the Future of Music Coalition.

Net neutrality is the principle that all websites, services and content should be equally accessible on the Internet. Some Internet service providers have proposed charging a fee to content providers to make their sites load faster. Doing so would make it harder for fans to access independent music and cultural programming, and could put independent radio, record labels and musicians at a disadvantage against corporate content providers.

Listen to the conference call here (mp3).

Below are statements from the key speakers at the teleconference:

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash, member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet and co-sponsor of the Network Neutrality Act of 2006:

We can’t allow phone and cable companies to hijack the Internet, which has been such a success due to its open architecture. Telecom companies shouldn’t be picking winners and losers among online content. That has been, and always should be, up to Internet users.

Musician Matt Nathanson:

From the perspective of a musician who tours about 10 months a year and makes his money selling records at shows and on the internet, the community and network I’ve built the lifeline of my existence it’s crucial that it be free and clear. Being on the road so often, the internet is the only link to our fans and to revenue streams. The internet is an essential piece of what I do and the idea of being knocked out of that having a hierarchy there would feel like floating in space. We’d be lost. So we can’t change the rules of the internet. It is just crucial to our business that we keep the internet in place for our use as it is.

Jonathan Lawson, Executive Director, Reclaim the Media:

Network neutrality is an issue about our basic freedom to communicate. It's also a fight for the soul of the Internet. At their best, broadcast media and public communications tools like the Internet encourage and support our free speech rights, giving everyone opportunities to speak for themselves and to hear speech from a wide range of other voices. Recent developments in Internet and wireless devices have dramatically increased many people's (though not everyone's) access to self-publishing, broadcasting, and participation in large-scale public conversations.

Net neutrality will protect our free speech rights by making sure that anyone online can join these conversations, visiting the smallest video blogs or streaming radio stations just as easily as the largest corporate-backed web sites. It will prevent powerful Internet companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from rigging the playing field to benefit only the highest-paying big business sites. These companies have made it clear that they don't want a level playing field, and have spent millions lobbying against net neutrality legislation. They want to separate traffic artificially into fast and slow lanes, and charge premiums for the better service. They also want to be able to slow down or block political messages they don't like, as we saw happen with the recent AT&T/Pearl Jam incident.

Just as media ownership caps help protect diversity of opinion by guarding against information monopolies, "net neutrality" protections are what we need to guarantee that the Internet remains a truly level playing field for dialogue, culture and politics.

Michael Bracy, Policy Director, Future of Music Coalition:

It’s been consistently proven that when Big Media is allowed to do whatever it wants, diversity disappears from the marketplace, stifling entrepreneurship and leaving consumers frustrated. Since its inception, the internet has grown into a truly democratic tool for everyone, particularly musicians. But if certain massive telecom companies get their way, this could all change. Rock the Net is a way for those in the music community to come together in support of network neutrality. We need to make it known that a return to the old bottlenecks that kept musicians from connecting with listeners will not be tolerated. The internet is for everyone, not just the big players.

Nabil Ayers, owner of Sonic Boom record stores and independent record label, The Control Group:

Without net neutrality, I'm concerned that the Internet will unavoidably reshape itself into toll-guarded tiers of accessibility. For retailers, the best access to customers will cost the most -- and the big companies that are able to pay will capture the largest share of consumers. That will lead to further concentration of choices about what gets promoted and what gets sold, and will put even more pressure on small businesses like Sonic Boom. We may thrive in our niche, but unless net neutrality is preserved, we’ll be forever locked into a second-tier status in an unjust system.

Discovery is part of the joy of experiencing music -- we see this all the time at Sonic Boom. It also help drive sales, whether in our stores or online. The most important thing is that fans and retailers have the opportunity to engage on an equal playing field without artificial limits on accessibility. That’s what net neutrality provides, and why it should be protected.

Christina Drummond of ACLU of Washington:

Recent actions by Verizon and AT&T demonstrate what advocates for network neutrality have been saying all along: internet service providers cannot be trusted to protect consumers' access to information, content and freedom of speech. Clearly, without the vigorous net neutrality protections that were in place before 2005, a few corporate conglomerates will be in a position to limit what we can say, hear, see or do on the Internet. Our First Amendment rights in the 21st century should not be dependant on the whims of those who provide our communications infrastructure. When that happens, free speech loses.

Net Neutrality is needed, and it is needed now.

The ACLU believes Congress must take action to restore the network neutrality protections that were in place before 2005 and ensure the Internet remains vibrant, innovative and free of discrimination.

Rock the Net is gaining backers nationwide due to signs of decreasing freedom on the Internet, such as AT&T’s silencing of Pearl Jam when they criticized President Bush during a live webcast. The campaign is supported by more than 700 bands and 150 record labels, including Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Sarah McLachlan, The Wrens, OK Go, Death Cab for Cutie and Aesop Rock.

The Rock the Net campaign was organized by Future of Music Coalition, Noise Pop, and Zeitgeist Artist Management, and is brought to Seattle by musician Matt Nathanson and Reclaim the Media, a local media advocacy group.

article originally published at .

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