'Internet for Everyone' sounds like a laudable goal. Very Mom and apple pie. Who could be against that?
The problem is that the name of an organization doesn't necessarily accurately depict what it's trying to do, and what Internet for Everyone is actually trying to do is far from clear -- and could end up making broadband Internet less accessible, say critics.
The organization is having what it calls a "Town Hall Meeting" in Los Angeles, on the campus of the University of Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 6. "Our broad alliance is working together to see that our nation's leaders adopt a national plan to bring open, high-speed Internet connections into every home, at a price all of us can afford," the organization's Facebook site reads.
Its website calls the meeting "the first in a nationwide series of public conversations to get every American connected to an open, fast and affordable Internet. The event is designed to bring together people from across the city to formulate a broadband plan for the new administration and Congress."
Again, who could be against that? But how the organization proposes to do that is unspecified. The group's website (which, ironically, is heavy on Flash usage that makes it difficult for someone who doesn't already have broadband Internet to gain access to it) is thin on details, too, though it offers a long list of members.
Both Internet for Everyone and Save the Internet, an organization dedicated to net neutrality, appear to be run by Free Press, a nonprofit organization describing itself as dedicated to reforming the media. (It didn't take any fancy journalistic research chops to figure this out; he Internet for Everyone event was featured on the Free Press group's home page.) Another organization, the Free Press Action Fund, is the group's legislative and lobbying arm.
Free Press is also behind a number of legal and legislative attempts to keep ISPs -- ranging from giants such as Comcast and Verizon to tiny ones in rural Wyoming -- not just from restricting any kind of Internet traffic, but treating it differently in any way, in the name of "net neutrality."
Again, a laudable goal, but is it really the right one? The equivalent would be, in traffic, no differences in speed limits between trucks and cars and no commute lanes.
This results in a long list of unintended consequences that could make it difficult or impossible for smaller ISPs to continue in business -- potentially cutting off the very rural citizens that Free Press claims to be trying to protect, said Brett Glass, operator of LARIAT, a Laramie, Wy.-based ISP, who has filed a number of documents with the court on his own.
Who's behind the Internet for Everyone/Save the Internet/Free Press movements is not clear. A number of people are listed as administrators of the Facebook page, including Josh Silver, whose writing as appeared on the Huffington Post.
As the saying goes, follow the money. But where does the money come from? That's not easy to find out here. Nonprofit organizations are required to file annually what's called a Form 990 with the IRS, showing their sources of funds and where the money is spent. But though the Free Press and Free Press Action Fund do have their Forms 990 for 2006 and 2007 on their website, the forms themselves have had the names of donors -- some of which have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars -- redacted (a fancy legal word meaning 'taken out'), meaning that no one can see who presumably expects to benefit from the legislation.
An odd thing from an organization espousing "openness" as one of its four guiding principles.