WASHINGTON--Net neutrality believers have officially ordained a celebrity poster child.
Musician-turned-cafe-proprieter Moby turned up on Capitol Hill on Thursday to urge passage of a proposal by Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey that would write into law. Sporting his signature dark-rimmed glasses, with his head clean-shaven as usual, the artist said that a world without legally binding Net neutrality principles would mean that today's "egalitarian" Internet would be privatized by large telecommunications companies.
"Here we have a system that works fine," the Grammy-nominated musician said in his customary mild-mannered tone, referring to what Net neutrality advocates tout as the Internet's historically open architecture. "Why do we want to change anything?"
The concept of Net neutrality says that network operators should not be allowed to charge content providers extra for the privilege of faster delivery or other preferential treatment.
Moby's not the only musician who feels Net neutrality is the right way to go. A newly formed group identifying itself as Artists and Musicians for Internet Freedom now includes rockers REM and Wilco, country act the Dixie Chicks, and hip-hop artist Q-Tip, among others.
With Markey by his side, Moby urged members of Congress to vote in favor of the congressman's proposal. If they don't, "don't be surprised if your constituents vote against you" in the upcoming elections, he warned.
The sparsely attended press conference took place on the corner of a House office building, with the dome of the Capitol providing a conspicuous backdrop. Markey and Moby were flanked by about a dozen Net neutrality supporters hoisting orange signs prepared by the event's organizers that read "." A couple of others toted signs backing the opposite position.
A brief scuffle ensued when one "Save the Internet" picketer bopped a representative for rival group FreedomWorks in the face with the foam sign, both sides confirmed Friday. A Save the Internet spokesman said the alleged attacker had apparently stopped by the event by chance and was not part of the campaign's crew. He was asked to leave, and the event continued without incident.
Correction: This story was updated to clarify an incident between participants at Thursday's Net neutrality rally on Capitol Hill.