They tried to shut us out. Their flacks and shills tried to discredit us. Their media lapdogs tried to attack us. But nothing could prevent a people-powered movement from stopping one of Washington's most powerful corporations.
Today the FCC delivered a technical knock-out to Comcast. In a landmark decision, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein approved an "enforcement order" that would require Comcast to stop interfering with the use of popular peer-to-peer applications by people on its network.
It also gives the FCC (one still controlled by industry-friendly Republicans) the teeth to stop powerful companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from getting between you and what you want to do online.
And it wouldn't have happened without the strong public backlash against phone and cable companies and their gatekeeper ambitions. Activists, bloggers, consumer advocates and everyday people who love an open Internet took on entrenched corporate power and won -- defying every ounce of conventional wisdom in Washington.
The Comcast Mafia
Through its D.C. mafia, Comcast had been exerting intense political and financial pressure on the FCC's Martin, who in July had announced his intention to sanction Comcast for mucking with the Web.
But the Republican chairman stood his ground , alongside Democratic Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, and instilled some hope that, even in a divided city, the public's interest can win out over partisanship and corruption.
It also follows more than two years of intense organizing by a coalition of organizations dedicated to preserving the democracy of the Internet. During this time, more than 1.6 million people sacrificed time and energy to contact Congress and the FCC, speak out at town meetings, collect signatures on street corners and on campuses, and spread the gospel of an open Internet via blogs, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
A Movement Milestone
Today's FCC victory is a milestone for the movement, but the work of creating a more accessible, open and affordable Internet is really only just beginning.
Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are continuing to fight Net Neutrality using lobbyists, lawyers and campaign contributions. They're aligning with powerful forces in Washington to spy on their users without warrant - and then gain retroactive immunity via Washington. They're looking working with the Hollywood industry associations to sift through information we send and download online to impose a draconian copyright regime on the Web, They're quietly snooping for data about our private online choices to turn over to advertisers.
Inside the Beltway, Big Telco and Cable are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create special rules written in their favor.
For all of their talk of "deregulation" and "free markets," cable and telephone lobbyists work aggressively behind the scenes to force through regulations that protect their local monopolies and duopolies, stifle new entrants and competitive technologies in the marketplace, and increase their control over the content that travels over the Web.
It's only recently that the well-heeled phone and cable lobby have been beaten back by a well-organized public. We are coming together in increasing numbers to see that these special interests are not allowed to set Internet policy for the nation.
The Internet's true greatness lies in those of us who use its level playing field to challenge the status quo, create and share new innovation and ideas, take part in our democracy and connect with others around the world -- without permission from any gatekeepers.
As we continue to mobilize to save the Internet, Washington should start to follow the public's lead. Change may be on the horizon for American politics, and this recent FCC decision may have offered up our first glimpse.