HandsOff.org vs. SaveTheInternet.org 

A special rant from Phil "Webster" Merrell, BW's Web Guy

The Web sites Handsoff.org and Savetheinternet.com can seem similar at first. Both use fancy-looking orange fonts, both tell their message through goofy-ass cartoons that use toy robots and line-drawings, and both swear to you they're fighting for the cause of "freedom." But there's a big difference.

Take this sentence from Handsoff.org:

"Hands Off The Internet believes that the best way to avoid burdensome and unnecessary regulation and mandates is by ensuring that market forces deliver the benefits that only fair competition can bring to the American consumer--maximum choice in supplier, content and technology."

If that didn't set off red flags, shame on you. First of all, the "burdensome and unnecessary regulation" they speak of refers to network neutrality, a central tenet of the Internet since its inception. With Network Neutrality intact, Internet service providers (such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T) can only move data to the computers that request it. They have to provide the same amount of access to the smallest blog as to the largest corporate Web site. As Internet users, we pay fees to ensure this access. If our computers request data, their networks retrieve it for us without any preference (assuming the content is legal).

If Handsoff.org got its way, ISPs would be able to charge at both ends and establish a tiered Internet system. So not only do they want to charge the users access to the Internet, they want to create a new revenue stream and charge Web site owners and content providers fees for ensuring speedy access to their sites. Even though HandsOff.org tries to doll up its message with fancy fonts and cutesy-poo cartoons on the Web site, what they're advocating boils down to a Web traffic protection racket.

The last time a major media reformation like this occurred (The 1996 Telecommunications Act), both Democrats and Republicans promised that deregulating the communications sector would be the equivalent of a free-for-all digital orgy that would create high-paying jobs and sweaty hot market competition. In actuality, it ensured that media outlets of all forms have become less competitive, more consolidated and hence perpetually more expensive. Ever recall the cost of cable going down? That's what I thought.

On the other hand, the site SaveTheInternet.org wants to see net neutrality remain intact. Companies like Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the Internet. If net neutrality were abandoned, it could radically alter their search engines. Since appearing in the top results of these search engines generally equates to high traffic, problems would inevitably arise through search engines indexing Web sites that aren't on the proposed top tier of allotted web traffic. Even though the many sites appearing in the top search results may be highly relevant to a search, if they don't pay for the Web traffic, then their Web site traffic would be bottlenecked. I imagine this is a very scary prospect to Google and the like for the reason that a search engine has no use if you can't access the pages that it returns.

Now you know. If you get fooled, you have only yourself to blame, sucka.

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