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Takeaways from SaveTheInternet's "first anniversary" conference call

I listened in to SaveTheInternet's conference call with reporters in celebration of their one year anniversary.

  • It was an illuminating "window" into the nature and status of the current Net neutrality "movement."

Senator Dorgan (D-ND) author of the pending Dorgan-Snowe Bill was the keynote and star.  

  • He framed net neutrality as  "Internet freedom" and "open architecture" and breathlessly stated that "the future of the Internet is at stake." 
  • He announced that he was seeking a hearing on his legislation with the goal of moving it to the Senate floor implying he had the votes to pass it.
  • He also anticipated and asked himself the core question of "why is the legislation needed?"
    • His only answer was to read the December 2005 Business Week quote by then SBC Chairman Ed Whitacre about how it was "nuts" for Google to use its pipes for free.
    • I was stunned that he as the keynote and the name author of the legislation that he could not come up with a more recent or better piece of "evidence" or at least come up with a real world example of a problem or instance he is concerned about.
      • This is obviously all politics; they have no substance or they would present it.

Craig Newmark was second to speak and he asserted everyone he knew was for NN. (I guess we should give up now.)

  • He also opined that NN was about "playing fair" and maintaining a "level playing field".
  • Mr. Newmark hasn't had any new material since we first did counter-commentaries for NPR on net neutrality almost a year ago.
  • I also was surprised that Mr. Newmark, Craigslist's self-described "customer service rep,"  was the biggest outside celebrity they could muster for this anniversary call, where was Mobi? Alec Baldwin? or Sean Penn?

Tim Wu of Columbia University and the coiner of the "net neutrality" phrase, said he sees a "sea change" in U.S. telecom policy and claimed that net neutrality is the new "third rail" of telecom politics where politicians will get "shocked by the public reaction" if they don't support net neutrality.

  • Mr. Wu's short speech was classic liberal-speak -- assert aspirations as fact -- implying the other side should unilaterally surrender to their superior intellect and moral authority.

The most enlightening participant was Michelle Combs, the head of the national Christian Coalition, who declared that net neutrality was a big "family issue" (but didn't explain why it was) and then she said she hoped net neutrality would become a presidential campaign issue.

  • Ms. Combs should have left it at that and not taken  any questions. She was asked a freindly soft-ball question about what the content was that she worried might be blocked without net neutrality.
    • Like a doe in the headlights, she stumbled in obvious horror in not knowing the answer and then stuttered that maybe Ben Scott of FreePress/ could help her with the answer to this question.
    • I felt bad for in that their hope that it was impressive that they had the Christian Coalition on the conference call was diminished because it was obvious that the Christian Coalition leader knew nothing of the issue other than what has told her.
      • It was painfully obvious that the Christian Coaliton is just "lip synching" the song.

Adam Greene of smartly went last in the pseaker line up to try and hide the fact that this "movement" is basically all a built facade.

  • Mr. Greene breathlessly listed all of their big lobbying successes including that John Stewart talked about net neutrality "more than twice." (Wow! The corridors of Washington must be shaking over that!)
  • The first question from a reporter kind of popped the balloon Mr. Green tried to create in asking why in late April there were only 9 co-sponsors of Dorgan-Snowe and why their was no House companion bill.
    • Ben Scott of FreePress/ chimed in that they expected much more interest in Congress on this in the summer and fall.  Time will tell.

Bottom line:

My big takeaway is that net neutrality is just a fancy cover story for web-savy public interest groups to keep their Internet distribution costs low.

  • again stated that they have a 3.2 million person email list implying that they don't want their email distribution cost to go up.
  • Why don't these groups just come clean and say they don't want their email bills to increase, ask for some not-for-profit tax break or discount like the U.S. Post Office gives and stop demanding that the entire Internet be regulated, micromanaged, and turned upside down to fix their parochial self-serving special interest agenda?