Al Franken on media consolidation

English: Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota
English: Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Major developments in recent days could shape the nation’s media landscape for years to come. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission advanced a proposal that critics say threatens net neutrality, the concept of a free and open Internet. The new rules could allow Internet "fast lanes" where companies pay providers for faster access to consumers. That sparked a wave of protest from opponents who say the rules hand too much power to the major companies who can afford to shell out, consolidating their control at the expense of smaller competitors and consumers’ monthly bills. Similar concerns have been raised about a merger deal struck over the weekend. The telecom giant AT&T has agreed to buy satellite television operator DirecTV in a nearly $50 billion deal. The move comes just months after Comcast announced plans to merge with Time Warner Cable. [...]

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the latest decision by the FCC?
SEN. AL FRANKEN: I was very unhappy with that vote. It was—Tom Wheeler, the chair of the FCC, had—it had kind of been leaked out a couple weeks prior to this that he was open to a fast lane, meaning that—the antithesis of net neutrality. Net neutrality has been the architecture of the Internet from the very beginning. What it means is it treats all digital content, all content that comes across the Internet to you, the consumer, through the Internet service providers, is all treated the same, is all treated equally or neutrally. And that has led to all this innovation that we’ve had over all these years on the Internet. And what Chairman Wheeler is talking about is allowing a fast lane, and it would be deep-pocketed corporations that would be able to buy this. And so, information would come to viewers from big corporations faster, or consumers. And this really would hurt innovation, and it has freedom of speech issues.
Let me give you just an example of why this—all information traveling the same has led to innovation. Years ago, there was a thing called Google Video, and it wasn’t very good. And the guys who created YouTube did it in—over a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. It’s a better product, and because it was—allowed travel the same speed as the Google product, people got to see it. And they sampled it, and they liked it better, and so we have YouTube. And in the same way, we’ve had all this explosion of innovation over the Internet because of net neutrality.

In the same way, this threatens democracy, something I know you’re interested in. And because right now your show travels as fast as Fox News, travels as fast as The New York Times, someone blogging right now not liking what I’m saying could do this—you know, can do that and get it up as fast as any other piece of information. If you have a fast lane for corporate news and corporate information and corporate content, that threatens our very democracy.- Sen. Al Franken: Media Mega-Mergers and FCC Rollback of Net Neutrality Threaten Democracy | Democracy Now!

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