Letter to the House Commerce Committee

April 25, 2006

Common Cause Letter to the House Commerce Committee, Urging a Vote Against COPE Act

Common Cause sent the following letter to every member of the House Commerce Committee, urging opposition to the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE) because of its failures to protect Internet freedom.

Dear Representative:

Tomorrow, you will be casting a vote on legislation that will dramatically affect every family in your district. We strongly urge you to vote against the COPE bill, and to support the Markey-Boucher-Eshoo-Inslee amendment on net neutrality.

Common Cause has 300,000 members and supporters throughout the country and 37 state chapters. For 30 years, we have worked to make government at the local, state and national levels more open, honest and accountable.

Our opposition to the COPE bill centers on its impact on the Internet as a powerful medium for democratic discourse. Currently, there is nothing in law or regulation that will prevent a powerful media corporation from drastically changing our experience of the Internet. Indeed, some of the most powerful media moguls in the country have been openly discussing their plans for an Internet that is vastly different from the Internet thousands of Americans have come to know and love. The COPE bill opens the door for companies that have already made clear that they want to use access to the Internet as a huge profit center.

The COPE enabled Internet will be an Internet divided between the information "haves" and "have nots." Those companies that provide Internet service will be able to charge organizations, bloggers, candidates, political parties, activists of both left and right, and other groups, a fee to ensure that their message can be easily accessed by those who surf the 'net. Those groups that cannot pay these fees will be consigned to slower lanes on the information highway, and will be more difficult to find.

Innovators - the founders of the Googles and eBays of the future - also will be crippled because they won't be able to afford to reach the millions of web users that the original Google, Yahoo and eBay could reach.

Those who need unfettered access to all information on the Internet likewise will have to pay more, and even then the corporations that grant that access will be pushing their own products - entertainment, games and merchandise, over and above information and discourse.

We came to the Internet because it linked us and gave us a way to express ourselves. But the telephone and cable companies that give us access to the Internet want it to become a passive medium, where consumers, not thinkers or activists, have the most power and get the most access.

The Markey amendment will make clear in law that the Internet must be free and open to all, and that companies may not restrict access to lawful information on the Internet. We urge you to support the Markey amendment.

The COPE bill remains flawed for many other reasons. It will end consumer protections against abuses by cable companies, and will allow cable and phone companies to raise the prices in poor neighborhoods, while giving special deals to the affluent. It makes possible a telecommunications world where minorities and rural families do not benefit from the best technology available, exacerbating the digital divide.

The COPE bill is bad policy for the American public, for the American economy, and for American democracy. We strongly urge you to vote NO on COPE.


Chellie Pingree


Common Cause

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