WASHINGTON, August 20, 2010 – Michael Copps, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, spoke in Minneapolis Thursday at a public hearing on the future of the internet, touting the important of broadband to the future of the United States and slamming the broadcasting and cable industries for bad behavior.
“I think most of you understand how important the internet and access to high-speed broadband are to the future or our country,” he said at the event, which was also attended by Democratic Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. “The question is: will we use it in such a way as to maximize its small ‘d’ democratic potential – or will we turn this too over to the special interests and gatekeepers and toll-booth collectors who will short-circuit what this great new technology can do for our country?”
Copps said the openness of the internet must not become another pawn in the hands of powerful corporate interests and while some of those entities “tell us not to worry,” he’s worried.
In his speech, he slammed broadcasters for taking hundreds of billions of dollars worth of free spectrum in the interest of the public good and failing to live up to their promises. He also criticized the cable industry for poor programming and high consumer bills, saying the FCC in both cases took the industries’ words too quickly.
“Now the big internet service providers give us the same pitch: Don’t worry; be happy; we would never compromise the openness of the internet.’ After what happened to radio and television, and after what happened to cable, should we take their word? I don’t think so!
The FCC’s job is now to correct course by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service and then to create rules and procedures to protect consumers, according to Copps.
He criticized the announcement last week by Verizon and Google which announced they’ve agreed on a policy framework: “Of course it wasn’t developed with input from the American people, but it is, they assure us, for the American people.”
And he highlighted how the pact by the large firms would almost completely exclude wireless broadband from the future of internet openness, even though more Americans are going mobile yearly.
“Powerful interests are spending millions of dollars to make sure the waters of truth don’t flow on this issue,” he said. “What can counter them is you.”