Franken: Net neutrality the ‘most important First Amendment issue of our time’

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken today said the principle of net neutrality — meaning that equivalent Internet access is given to all content — is “under assault — not from the government but from corporations seeking to control the flow of information in America.”

In an opinion column published on, Franken warned that allowing prioritization online would violate the First Amendment by allowing one set of information to have more priority than another, implicitly shunning those who can’t pay for access. He wrote:

Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental to free speech. The internet today is an open marketplace. If you have a product, you can sell it. If you have an opinion, you can blog about it. If you have an idea, you can share it with the world.

And no matter who you are — a corporation selling a new widget, a senator making a political argument or just a Minnesotan sharing a funny cat video — you have equal access to that marketplace.

An e-mail from your mom comes in just as fast as a bill notification from your bank. You’re reading this op-ed online; it’ll load just as fast as a blog post criticizing it. That’s what we mean by net neutrality.

The op-ed comes at a seminal moment in the debate on net neutrality, as news broke that the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T, Verizon, Skype and Google are in talks over how to “bridge” the gulf between those who want full net neutrality and content providers who hope to profit from selling premier access rates. Initial discussions have included allowing prioritization on wireless Internet devices, like mobile phones.

Courts have ruled that the FCC cannot regulate net neutrality, and the divide in Congress on the issue is so deep and expansive that there aren’t the votes either to officially ensconce net neutrality or oppose it.

“Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the key to preserving the internet as we know it,” Franken concluded, “and it’s the most important First Amendment issue of our time.”

Read Franken’s entire op-ed on here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/05/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    Franken confuses first amendment rights (the right to say what you want without government intrusion) with private property rights. In a free society, people are allowed to own property, in this case net content, and they have the right to allow access to or distribute it as they see fit without government control.

    What Franken is advocating is that government control access to someone else’s property on your behalf.

    If Franken wants to get outraged at something, he should get outraged at the FCC attempting to get around the private property principle by picking and choosing winners in the marketplace who happen to be big enough to go along with the government’s power grab.

  2. Submitted by Phyllis Stenerson on 08/05/2010 - 01:50 pm.

    To quote one of your predecessors, Al – Hubert H. Humphrey – “Never, never, never give up.” Your basic premise is absolutely right – net neutrality – equal access to all – is a fundamental American right of free speech. No matter how others slice/dice it re free enterprise and private property, to give corporations and the rich priority over regular folks would be disastrous to an open dialogue in a free society.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/06/2010 - 04:34 pm.

    Mr. Tester: The FCC won’t control content. It will only require that all providers give equal access to all content to every internet user — NOT to give information more rapidly to big corporations/advertisers than to you and me.

    We already pay more for internet access than the citizens of other countries. There’s no way for the price to go anywhere but up if corporations have control and take every opportunity to increase their profits at our expense.

    Net neutrality is not the only media-control issue we face. Comcast wants to buy MSNBC, which means it would control BOTH content and its delivery over a great swath of cable, broadcast and print media. Congress is discussing this, so contacting them with loud NOs might be in order.

    Do we want to be ruled by corporations whose only aim is profit or do we want a free press to remain as our best (and only??) defense against
    governmental and, apparently, corporate power?

    Look up the word “corporatism” in your Webster’s. It means a symbiotic, interdependent relationship with government and big business and a belief that the interests of both are the same. It ain’t good and we are 90% there already. Government’s job should be to protect us from corporations, not to cede power over us to them.

    I believe you can sign up as a supporter of net neutrality at Senator Franken’s web site to help him show others that people (voters) really care.

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