Net Neutrality: Who is minding our store?
“If true, this proposal is a huge step backwards and just must be stopped,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as a special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “If the Commission subverts the Open Internet by creating a fast lane for the 1 percent and slow lanes for the 99 percent, it would be an insult to both citizens and to the promise of the Net.”
Technologists, activists, and regular people like you have been trying to get the rest of us to pay attention to one of the most destructive efforts afoot in government today — the dismantling of the Internet as we know it, a beloved creation bestowed upon our culture that it cannot and should not be without, a method of worldwide communication, a tool of epic proportions to make the world a better place, right up there with clean air and water.
Most people know that the Internet was first developed for the Department of Defense as ARPANET, circa 1970 in order to facilitate communication between contractors and various agencies within the government for research and development purposes. (It so happens VenusPlusX Co-Founder Dan Massey was involved in this project professionally, so we were among the first to “go on line.”) Only after the Internet became available for public use, making every user an instant author, were the full dimensions of Internet potential realized. First in, pornographers, who at one point in the 80s were responsible for 50% of commercial Internet traffic. As the first generation of adults to start using the Internet, we quickly realized what the Internet meant to us personally, how it would change our lives, how we could use it to build a better future, how even the most vulnerable among us would finally have a platform to be heard in our new “town square.”
We started writing about the importance of preserving net neutrality a couple of years ago, when it was threatened by congressional efforts of control content and its flow to users (SOPA, PIPA), and even the White House’s proposed Online Privacy Bill of Rights. It’s always been somewhat a mystery why this subject doesn’t draw more attention and activism. Perhaps now that we are about to lose the best aspects of the Internet, more people will take this on as a primary issue.
Were we lulled into the belief that Obama, having campaigned on a platform of securing net neutrality both in 2008 and 2012, and a seemingly cooperative Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be enough to stave off the opportunistic, profiteering, parasitic special interests by providers such as Verizon and Comcast? After a judge struck down the FCC’s ruling that disallowed charging different rates for different content, the Commission is now circulating new draft rules that would in practice allow corporations to control the Internet and the speed at which information moves across it. Everyday people, small business owners and organizations, the voiceless, will all be shut out. Payola used to be a dirty word for it but what we are about to experience is a complex pay-to-play scheme whereby providers name the price that Netflix, HBO, and other users must pay to stream their material, costs which will be passed onto to consumers.
Like every other part of our government lately it seems, special corporate interests have trumped the will of the people, and, in the case of net neutrality, the needs of the deserving, the voice for voiceless.
Get off our couches, and do something about it!