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Pearl Jam Stirs Up Net Neutrality Debate

Kim Hart

A Pearl Jam performance seems to have stirred up the debate over Net Neutrality, or the effort underway in Washington that would bar Internet providers from giving preferential treatment to certain content on their networks.

Last weekend, an AT&T-sponsored webcast of Pearl Jam's Lollapolooza performance cut out some politically-charged lyrics aimed at President Bush. Since then, a slew of public interest groups, like Coalition, Free Press, Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition, as well as the band itself, have attacked the company for censoring Web content.

AT&T said muting the lyrics was unintentional. In response to the criticism, AT&T said in a statement that a person in charge of monitoring content for profanity mistakenly edited out the lyrics. The company said it will work with Pearl Jam to post the uncut version of the song.

But the groups railing against AT&T don't seem to buy that explanation. They're pointing to the incident as a reason Congress should make content-blocking illegal.

AT&T and other Internet service providers have said they need flexibility to manage Internet traffic. They also say such legislation is unnecessary because there is no evidence that blocking is actually occurring. Under the conditions of AT&T's December purchase of BellSouth, AT&T temporarily agreed not to obstruct access to content on its network.

Net neutrality has long been a hot-button issue for consumer advocates and Internet companies, but it hasn't gotten a lot of attention on the Hill this year. Incidents like this might ignite that fire again.

By Kim Hart  |  August 10, 2007; 7:31 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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On behalf of the Office of the Vice President, I applaud this sort of content 'streamlining'... I am part of the working committee that will be be providing a revised Constitution streamlined by eliminating some of those pesky bits about common folk having the same rights as the people with power...

Posted by: Howard_NYC@YAHOO.COM | August 11, 2007 11:12 AM

I feel horrible for Pearl Jam. Millions of people were not afforded the opportunity to hear them bash our President. If Eddie Vedder killed himself, I'd understand. I don't know how he can go on.

Posted by: Dave | August 11, 2007 12:56 PM

But WAIT. Eddie, you can post your comments here!!!

I think George Bush is dumb.

See!!!!! Wow. That was awesome.

Posted by: Dave | August 11, 2007 12:58 PM

Prioritizing traffic is one thing. Editing of content in transit is a completely different matter.

Large transport providers are certainly entitled to prioritize traffic as they choose -- including by who's paying them -- but they cannot and should not be permitted to block "best effort" traffic, or to modify the content without forfeiting all their legal protections as common carriers. There is also an contract with their customers who are already paying for connectivity; blocking access to "non-paying" traffic defeats the value of that connection, and (IMHO) constitutes misrepresentation of the product to the consumer.

Don't much care about Pearl Jam. I do care that we be able to exchange information without pre-selected approval.

Posted by: DB | August 13, 2007 12:05 PM

Dave, Dave, Dave,
PJ, and Eddie, have the same right as you do to criticize, or not criticize, our president. Just because you think he doesn't, doesn't mean he doesn't!
Neither Big gov'mint or Big buisnez should have the right to censor our speech. Anyone familar with music should be prepared to hear things they may not like, in which case they are free to use the two knobs on their radio, the buttons on their remote or the many other ways availble to change the channel or kill the volume!

I love my country!
I fear my government!

Posted by: jdrake | August 13, 2007 12:15 PM

our courts broke-up Mabell, bush2 made sure at&t would take it's place;thank God Pearl Jam will be around long after bush is gone!

Posted by: jerryvb2 | August 14, 2007 5:47 PM

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