Monday, March 3, 2008

A Perfect Argument for Net Neutrality

An oversimplified explanation of Net Neutrality might go something like this: the major telecom companies want to determine how much bandwidth can be used by whom, when, and to which sites. In effect, they'd like to be able to decide which sites you can use their bandwidth visiting and they'd also like to give preferential access to certain groups and corporate clients (whom you're probably not in). Others of us think it might be best if the Internet remains open to all and information-neutral, granting the same access to everyone and every site.

Thus far, I've stayed out of it. I guess because in my happy little mind, it's such a fantastically obvious issue that it hardly warrants all that much discussion. I tend to remain foolishly naive and forget that these days, even the most obvious issues fail to be easily resolved in the best interest of the people.

Last week, the FCC held a meeting at Harvard University designed for concerned citizens to voice their opinions concerning the issue. Comcast, New England's largest provider of broadband Internet coverage, decided do their part to diffuse the potentially heated debate by attempting to fill the entire venue with their own employees and better yet, paid seat-holders. In so doing, they succeeded in:
  1. keeping out the actual concerned citizenry for whom the event was created (more than 100 were turned away because all of the seats were filled)
  2. really cheesing off John Kerry
  3. providing a ridiculous slam-dunk example of EXACTLY what they hope to do by squashing Net Neutrality--taking away the voice of the people to protect their own self-interests
And so, I thank you Comcast for reminding me that important matters are at hand and I certainly shouldn't sit back and assume it will all work out as it should. Most importantly, thanks for making it so easy to paint the picture of what this means and why this matters. Comcast, AT&T, and the other telecom providers who oppose Net Neutrality want to crowd you out and decide when and where you are free to see or say what matters to you.

Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to come up with a better real-world illustration as to what net neutrality is all about. As stated by John Kerry, who is working to pass legislation that will protect an open Internet, "If the other side will use their money to restrict public access to a public meeting, how can we feel confident they won't use their power to restrict voices in the virtual world?"

Clearly, we can't and we shouldn't.

Go here to Save the Internet.

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