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Your Internet Freedom is on Life Support: Open Letter to the Digerati

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/

photo by: Steve Rhodes

The freedom we enjoy today to read blog posts and download podcasts from anyone who can publish to the web, is being challenged by opponents of “net neutrality.”

If you don’t know what net neutrality is, it’s the belief that internet service providers should not be able to make some websites display faster than others.

If ISPs were at liberty to decide what websites load quickly, and which ones take a long time, imagine the impact on how we browse the web.  They could charge website owners for premium content delivery services, and financial interests rather than interesting content would be the driving force behind what sites we have reasonable access to online.  If the ISPs win, it’s essentially the death of the Legend of the Long Tail.

Joe Nocera writes about the issue, acknowledging the different sides of the debate. But if you enjoy consuming or creating user-generated content, economic forces are threatening to cripple that freedom.

I don’t know about you, but saving drafts in WordPress takes long enough already.  If the freedom to blog as effortlessly as you Ebay is important to you, now’s the time to get vocal, and here are a few options:

  1. Sign the Petition at Save the InternetThe savetheinternet.com coalition is two million everyday people who have banded together with thousands of non-profit organizations, businesses and bloggers to protect Internet freedom.
  2. Donate to Common Cause – Increasingly, the media’s failure to provide diverse viewpoints and unbiased information is undermining the strength of our democracy.  As more corporate conglomerates buy up independent news outlets, fewer voices and perspectives are able to be heard and the less accountable broadcasters are to the public. Common Cause is working to ensure that the media meet their obligations to serve the public by promoting diversity, accessibility, and accountability among media corporations and the government agencies that regulate the media.
  3. Donate to the Electronic Freedom Foundation – 2010 will be the year we start to find out, as the Federal Communications Commission begins a Net Neutrality rulemaking process. But how far can the FCC be trusted? Historically, the FCC has sometimes shown more concern for the demands of corporate lobbyists and “public decency” advocates than it has for individual civil liberties. Consider the FCC’s efforts to protect Americans from “dirty words” in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, or its much-criticized deregulation of the media industry, or its narrowly-thwarted attempt to cripple video innovation with the Broadcast Flag. With the FCC already promising exceptions from net neutrality for copyright-enforcement, we fear that the FCC’s idea of an “Open Internet” could prove quite different from what many have been hoping for.
  4. Respond the FCC’s request for comments – Leave it to the FCC to publish their request for comments on an issue that may affect the future of our democracy as a PDF.  Sheesh. But here it is.  Full Disclosure: Legal counsel may be required to make sense of it.

There are plenty of other options as well.  If you’re a US citizen, send a note to your congressional representatives.  Here’s where to find them.

Whether wireless or cable, ample research shows the Internet has become a communications, not a broadcast, channel. Would you rather see internet access evolve along the lines of the cable industry, which charges for access to different content packages from mainstream media companies, or along the lines of the telephone, where you can call anyone you want, be it a corporate or individual?

My belief is that the internet  should be reclassified by the FCC as a communications channel, and regulated accordingly, lest the “Flat World” as we know it become a series of toll booths, obstacles and barricades to accessing information online.

What is your opinion?  Whether you agree with me or not, I’d like to hear it.  Regardless of the side you’re on, now is the time to stand up and be counted.  Don’t forfeit your freedom to make a difference.  Invest in your informational future by getting your arms around this issue and taking a stand!

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