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Thursday, October 26, 2006

CCVM: Maintain Net Neutrality In AT&T Merger

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must not approve the merger of AT&T and BellSouth without attaching strong and enforceable Internet Freedom/Net Neutrality conditions, the Center for Creative Voices in Media has told the commission.

“What is at stake in the FCC’s consideration of this colossal combination of AT&T and BellSouth is nothing less than the future of the Internet, and whether that future Internet will be open or closed to independent and diverse voices and viewpoints. Not just creative voices – all voices,” says Jonathan Rintels, executive director of Creative Voices.

The Center for Creative Voices in Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving in America’s media the original, independent, and diverse creative voices that enrich its culture and safeguard its democracy.

The FCC is a federal regulatory agency and consists of five commissioners -- three appointed from the political party of the sitting president and two from the opposition.

AT&T and BellSouth announced a proposed merger in March, saying at the time that the deal would benefit customers and promote competition.

“Internet Freedom – or Network Neutrality – is of unique and vital importance to creative media artists. From the most prominent well-established independent television or film producer to the kid with nothing but a video camera, a computer, and a dream, creative media artists increasingly use the broadband Internet to avoid the chokehold that broadcasters and cable operators have over video distribution to the American public," Rintels says.

“But that’s threatened when phone and cable companies control, by the FCC’s own figures, an astonishing 99.6 percent of all American consumers with broadband, and those companies can also control where their captive customers go on the Internet," he says. "That’s why the commission must attach strong and enforceable Internet Freedom/Net Neutrality conditions to this transaction.

“AT&T’s offer to abide by the FCC’s pro-Internet Freedom Policy Statement for a period of 30 months after the merger’s approval is not merely insufficient; it thumbs its nose at the American public and the commission," he adds. "By definition, the FCC’s approval of this transaction cannot be in the 'public interest' when the combined company retains the right to ignore and violate after just 30 months the public interest in net neutrality, as so recently expressed by the commission."


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