May 15, 2008 |
Choosing a cause for Bloggers Unite was a daunting task this week. With earthquakes and cyclones wiping out vast portions of China and Myanmar, Darfur still in crisis and a world full of tragedies to choose from, in the end I chose an issue closer to home: network neutrality. Why? Because without the free internet we currently have under grandfathered network neutrality ideals, we would not be hearing about the other tragedies, nor would we be able to rally people to help. In fact, we wouldn’t have an unbiased source of news for politics or causes at all without network neutrality.
The way the big telecommunications companies are lobbying Congress as hard as they can to have the Internet no longer be a level playing field. Well, with all the other poor decisions coming out of Capital Hill in recent years, it’s easy for this to get lost in the shuffle. A little background on the concept of network neutrality:
Network Neutrality has been called the First Amendment of the Internet. Wikipedia defines it as follows:
Network neutrality is a principle of network design. It asserts that, in order to promote innovation, network service providers such as telephone and cable internet companies should not be permitted to dictate how those networks are used (i.e., not permitted to ban certain types of programs, to ban certain types of devices connecting to the network, or to favor carriage of traffic to certain web sites over others).
Save The Internet, a leading crusader for the network neutrality cause, adds this to the standard definition of Network Neutrality:
Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn’t speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.
According to Save The Internet there are already hundreds of bloggers blogging this issue, and growing (my personal blog included). The combination of people who have come together to rally against this move against free enterprise and free speech by the telecommunications industry overlords is astounding. What other issue could bring together this list of names (and these are simply a random selection of a few of the charter members of the Save The Internet Coalition – there are hundreds more people not listed here who support the cause regardless of differing ideologies):
Professor Timothy Wu — Columbia
Gun Owners of America
Craig Newmark — Craigslist.com Founder
MoveOn.org Civic Action
American Library Association
National Association of State PIRGs (U.S. PIRG)
Flint River Hospital
Loyola University Chicago, Department of Communications
Alex Curtis of Public Knowledge made a short video that gives a clear idea of the ways losing Network Neutrality could affect you. If the embedded player below won’t work for you, you can view the video here, at YouTube.
Save The Internet is not the only web site speaking out against this potential removal of freedoms. FreePress is also sponsoring the Net Freedom Now! movement. Public Knowledge has published a downloadable PDF of the Committee Print of the proposed bill (scroll to the bottom of their page to see it). The Center for Digital Democracy is running their own Digital Destiny Campaign. There are many more organizations and web sites running parallel campaigns against this poisonous legislation. You can visit either Save The Internet or Free Press for a comprehensive list of people, web sites, businesses and organizations that are on the side of Net Neutrality.
Most importantly, send your letter or email to your state’s representative today! There have been several bills featuring network neutrality riders over the last year, with more coming. Many of the aforementioned sites have internet forms to fill out and email to your representatives, and also phone numbers for you to call.
Now that we have had the educational portion of this post, you may be wondering how this would affect me, and why I am so up in arms over it on a personal as well as political level. That is simple. I am a freelance writer and editor. I live in a very small town, close to… not very much. The nearest serious research facility (library, college, or major city with access to research facilities in abundance) is over an hour away. I find my clients on the internet, I find my ideas on what corporations may want me to write about on the internet, I conduct my interviews on the internet, I use the internet for my phone and fax service to save money, I submit my work on the internet and most importantly, I do 99% of my research online. If unbiased research is removed from the internet, or access to a variety of clients and not just “big businesses” who can afford to pay the toll that would come with the loss of Network Neutrality, then I will be unable to continue my career. Without moving to a large city where I have access in person to the resources I have now at my fingertips, I would be sunk. So yes, this issue affects me personally.
This issue also affects how i get my news, and how I hear about and help with charities and causes online. Without a free and open internet, I would not have heard of the cyclone in Myanmar, not the earthquake in China. I would not have been as well educated about politics and current events. In short, without an open internet, society and human rights can not thrive. How would you be affected by a closed, limited internet?