Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Even Grannies Fight for Net Neutrality

A group of singing and screaming grandmothers known as the Raging Grannies made up the most colorful part of yesterday’s public hearing on broadband network management practices at Stanford University.
"Internet Freedom, under attack. What do we do? Stand up, talk back," the Raging Grannies shouted outside the Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University where the FCC hearing was held.
"For a lot of people the Internet is becoming the most important source of communication. It has to be regulated so that open access can be guaranteed, just like with all other communication," said Gail Sredanovic, one of the grannies.
The grannies had written 13 different songs and cheers in support of network neutrality and protesting cable provider Comcast's alleged practices of slowing down or blocking traffic between users, thereby violating the Internet’s tradition of equal treatment of traffic.
"When the telecoms interfere with traffic in secret, it becomes a threat to freedom of speech and equal rights. If you're pushed to the slow lane you become a second class citizen," said Ruth Robertson, another granny.
The Raging Grannies is a performing activist group and network neutrality is far from the only issue they take on. Through music, song, and inventive costumes the grannies carry out protests on issues like the war in Iraq and veteran's rights.
"We have our own website and we’d hate to see it slowed down. But we don’t just speak for us. We represent all the non-profit websites from left wing to right wing," said Robertson.
While most of the grannies announced they were going home for their naps around noon when the actual hearing started, both Ruth Robertson and Gail Sredanovic stayed around to take on the carriers during the public comment part of the hearing.
However, no carriers showed up for them to fight. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner all declined the FCC's invitation to attend the hearing. This made for quite an uncontroversial day, where the audience cheered most of the panelists on.
With one side of the issue so drastically underrepresented, the auditorium didn't even fill up. At least this way, Comcast avoided new scandals similar to the previous accusations that the company was paying people off the street to take up seats, as they were criticized for doing at the Harvard hearing in February.
This was disappointing to the grannies who had gone to the trouble of writing a cheer for that specific purpose: "What has Comcast got to hide? They had seat-warmers inside! Stacked the deck, told some lies. Grannies say: apologize!"

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