As many here know, Microsoft is one of the big supporters of network neutrality and a member of the It's Our Internet coalition. It's Our Internet is the industry driven coalition with public interest members. That's different from the “Save The Internet” Coalition, which is the public interest coalition with industry members.
And today, Microsoft demonstrated why the distinction is important. MS has taken a temporary hiatus from It's Our Internet. Why? Because It's Our Internet filed comments with the FCC demanding a net neutrality condition in the proposed AT&T/BellSouth merger. MS has a corporate policy against opposing other people's mergers — particularly mergers involving large potential customers.
MS is not unique in this. Many companies have such a policy. It's why AT&T never said a word against Comcast and Time Warner's acquisition of Adelphia cable, even though Comcast and Time Warner are AT&T's chief competitors at the moment.
This is why, as I have said before, “you can't outsource citizenship.” It is nice to have big companies like MS on our side, and I have no doubt they will get back in the NN game as soon as the AT&T/BS merger is over. But, at the end of the day, MS — like Google and Ebay and every other company supporting NN — does so to advance its corporate interests. That's not a criticism. It's a fact of life.
If you expect companies to save your bacon and defend your rights, think again. And if you expect the network neutrality movement to vanish if the telcos and tech cos manage to cut some kind of deal, think again. What has put Network Neutrality on the policy map has been people getting together and reminding their elected representatives that they work for us. And if we are going to win this fight in the long hall, we need to remember that.
So next time anyone says network neutrality is just a fight between the “extremely wealthy” and the “merely rich,” as a
former FCC Chairman who should know better recently did, remember when Microsoft dropped out of the fight for a week and the rest of us kept going. I'll be glad to see MS come back when it feels it is in its corporate interest to do so. In the meantime I, and any citizen that cares to join me and my friends, will keep fighting for the public interest.