WASHINGTON - November 29 - At a press conference today inside the State Capitol, members of a broad array of Michigan groups and local members of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition spoke out against a “lame duck” vote on the "Michigan Video Franchising Bill" (HB 6456) and demanded that state senators protect the future of the Internet for Michigan residents and businesses.
"It is critical to our democracy that our two most popular media outlets -- TV and the Internet -- remain diverse and robust marketplaces for ideas," said David Pettit of the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM). "If this bill is allowed to go forward, it will diminish local programming and destroy today’s fair and equal Internet."
The "Michigan Video Franchising Bill" is a revision of Michigan's telecommunications laws being pushed by AT&T. The bill would allow the telecommunications giant to gut consumer protections, cherry-pick which communities receive high-speed broadband and video service, dodge local community access requirements, and ignore Net Neutrality -- the fundamental principle of the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet providers from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.
"Consumers should benefit from full competition. What we're asking for is very simple: protect the consumer by making sure telephone and cable companies don't restrict the services that are available," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google Sr. Policy Counsel. "Google would never have grown beyond a garage project if Internet providers had been able to block or slow access by individuals. It is essential for Michigan to preserve the Internet as an unmatched platform for innovation and job creation."
Having failed in efforts to pass federal legislation against Net Neutrality, these powerful phone companies are now determined to take away Internet freedom at the state level. As reported in today's Los Angeles Times, the SavetheInternet.com Coalition is organizing state-by-state to fight this effort. Michigan is one of the first states in the Coalition's ongoing campaign to save the Internet from restrictive control by phone companies.
"Michigan’s legislation would allow phone companies like AT&T to seize more control of what families see and do online," said Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press. "They tell legislators and the public that it will expand access to the Internet. What they don't reveal is that unless Net Neutrality protections are added, these corporations will be able to abuse their role as gatekeepers to the Internet."
"This bill would make it easy for big telecom companies to ignore Michigan’s underserved areas and ‘cherry-pick’ only the most profitable customers. To create a level playing field for all consumers, Michigan needs policies that build high-speed broadband and video networks in all communities," said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at Consumer Federation of America.
Public access stations - and the local communities that depend on them -- would be hit especially hard by Michigan’s proposed video franchising legislation. "Provisions in this bill could silence the voices of over 400 community organizations that use public access in Grand Rapids alone," said Laurie Cirivello, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center.
Other participants in today’s press conference included the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) Michigan Chapter, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Michigan Chapter of the Alliance for Community Media. Following the press conference, the local groups and SavetheInternet.com Coalition members delivered more than 18,000 petitions supporting Net Neutrality and urged their state senators to vote against the Michigan Video Franchising Bill.
More than 850 diverse groups have come together as the SavetheInternet.com Coalition - including small businesses, leading consumer groups, the American Library Association, Consumers Union, the Electronic Retailing Association, MoveOn, the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, Free Press and others.