PALO ALTO - April 10 - Next week, all five Federal Communications Commissioners will meet face-to-face with the public at a hearing at Stanford University to discuss what rules should govern high-speed Internet networks. The Stanford event is part of the FCC's ongoing investigation into the blocking of legal Web traffic by Comcast, the nation's largest cable company.
WHAT: FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet
DATE: Thursday, April 17, 2008
TIME: 12 p.m. - 7 p.m. PT
WHERE: Stanford University, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, 471 Lagunita Drive, Palo Alto, Calif.
Last fall, Comcast was caught secretly cutting off access to popular file-sharing technologies -- an emerging standard for providing high-definition online TV -- used by everyone from the Hollywood studios to NASA. In January, the FCC launched an official inquiry in response to a complaint filed by Free Press and a coalition of public interest groups and legal scholars. The cable giant initially denied blocking the innovative competitor to its cable TV service -- then argued that the FCC has no authority to stop the practice.
"For the Internet to remain an incubator for innovation, we must have open Internet policies," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, which coordinates the SavetheInternet.com Coalition. "Without them, we're engaging in a cat and mouse game where network owners try to get away with blocking content and users try to catch them. This system is guaranteed to establish online gatekeepers."
At the FCC's previous hearing at Harvard in February, Comcast admitted to hiring seat-fillers that blocked interested citizens from attending the event. Shortly after the FCC announced the Stanford hearing last month, Comcast publicized plans to collaborate with BitTorrent Inc. -- a peer-to-peer company that shares its name with the popular protocol. News of the arrangement was met with widespread skepticism -- and the FCC made it clear that its investigation would continue.
"The Internet's open marketplace of ideas and commerce won't survive on a series of side deals," said Scott. "This isn't just about Comcast and BitTorrent Inc. It's about the viability of future applications and services -- and the threat posed by any network provider left unchecked."
While the Harvard hearing focused specifically on the impact of blocking on peer-to-peer technologies, the Stanford event will expand the scope to include other innovative applications and services. The FCC will hear from two panels of legal scholars, technology experts, entrepreneurs and industry representatives -- followed by two hours of public testimony. The hearing is open to the public and seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"Net Neutrality is a civil rights issue -- it allows the public access to any Web site or application of their choice without discrimination," said Eloise-Rose Lee, project director for Media Alliance. "Without it, communities of color, low-income communities, and other under-represented groups -- as well as the organizations that support them -- will be further pushed to the sidelines when it comes to reliable, secure and fast Internet service. They should not be forced to compete against corporations who can afford the tolls enforced by telcos like Comcast and AT&T."
Local organizations -- including Media Alliance, the Media Center, Pacifica's KPFA-FM, Bay Area Video Coalition, One East Palo Alto and the Center for Media Justice -- are hosting a series of community workshops to help local citizens prepare their public testimony on these issues.
"This is an important opportunity for the public to participate in the high-stakes debate over the future of the Internet," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. "The outcome will either deliver a closed Internet controlled by big phone and cable companies, or an open Internet controlled by the people who use it."
View the FCC's official announcement and agenda here: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-281298A1.pdf
For the latest information on the hearing and locally organized public workshops, visit http://www.savetheinternet.com/=stanford
The SavetheInternet.com Coalition is a grassroots, nonpartisan alliance of hundreds of groups, thousands of bloggers, and more than 1.6 million concerned Americans who have joined together to protect Internet freedom and Network Neutrality. No corporation or political party funds the coalition. Statements by the SavetheInternet.com Coalition are not necessarily endorsed by every participating organization. Learn more at www.SavetheInternet.com