From: Richard Smith <rasmith1201@sbcglobal.net>
To: <DNSTransition@ntia.doc.gov>
Date: Mon, Jul 3, 2006 5:11 PM
Subject: We (Americans and Society) Needs a Neutral Internet

To whom it may concern,

The Internet initially came into existence to move information. First, between research facilities and military entities. Second, between regular computer users. Now, the Internet has evolved into a network for information, commerce, and community. As a result, it is imperative that the Internet be preserved for uninhibited use for two reasons: first, to insure free access to information; and second, to insure that restrictions on information do not hinder commerce and innovation.

First, the Internet must serve as a resource for unlimited access to information. The Internet exists as a vast database of all kinds of information from the inane to the intriguing. Relaxing restrictions on private control, like current bills moving through Congress allow, would permit big business to limit the kind of information that may receive traffic over its lines. The Internet is dependent on these bandwidth providers much like drivers are dependent on highways to get from Chicago to New York. Doing away with any regulation requiring equal access and open doors would prevent the spread of information in a way that benefits all of the Internet's users. People use the Internet to get their news, learn, and interact with others. Moreover, it allows people to speak in an uninhibited way. In this regard, free access to information becomes a Constitutional imperative. Here, the Internet allows the lone blogger to rise to the level of the lone pamphleteer by providing a ubiquitous medium for the transmission of ideas. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech as a hallowed force of American Democracy. As such, the Internet must remain open to speakers and those who choose to listen in addition to those who wish to move information, academic or otherwise.

Second, the Internet must continue to remain free from restrictions that would detrimentally impact innovation and commerce. Internet business has skyrocketed since 1990. The advent of new technology, and easy access has provided a new medium for economic competition, and a new avenue to get products to consumers. Any restriction on the Internet, most notably monetary, would drive the cost of doing business up, hindering the economic gains from the Internet's current state. Similarly, because the Internet is used to move information, restricting access to information could stifle innovation. First, the information needed to spur innovation beyond the Internet won't be available to those engaged in efforts to invent. Second, restrictions to information will hinder, if not bar, the advancement of the Internet itself. From its genesis, the Internet has evolved in its ease of use and appearance. Restrictions on access, imposed by government action or inaction, will perturb the innovation that undergirds this evolution.

Moreover, the regulations currently moving through the Senate, and recently passed by the House of Representatives, that aims to rewrite the Telecommunications Act of 1934, does not make logical sense. The bill would effectively allow telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon, Level 3, and Comcast, to charge at both ends, or in some cases, charging multiple times between networks. The average Internet user already pays for Internet access through their Internet service provider (ISP). It makes no reasonable sense to allow big business to profiteer off of this kind of use, and in the process harm the economy, free speech, free access to information, and innovation. While these businesses argue that the fees, or the euphemistic tolls, are necessary to insure that they can afford to support changing demands in technology by upgrading their infrastructure. However, this fails to make logical sense since upgrading service should be part of their general business goal, with a business plan that includes these kinds of upgrades, or at the very least pro rates the cost with what we pay for service. This bill would legislate around a requirement for responsible business practices by the telecommunications industry, and run contrary to the policy that lead to the break-up of the the AT&T monopoly in the last 20 years.

The Internet should remain free. To accomplish this, the Federal Government or subsidiary agency should mandate prohibitions on any restriction to bandwidth or access that would detrimentally affect the ability of users to freely access information available via the internet and across the world wide web. While the NTIA strives for privatization, this goal may have unintended consequences not adequately addressed by current political policy. The Internet needs neutrality to prevent these harms. NTIA or some similar governing body should act in the interest of civil liberty and prevent the denigration of a powerful tool.

R. Andrew Smith