Media Reform, Net Neutrality, and YOU

I have a few ideas for your consideration:

  • What would you say if, suddenly, you could no longer access the sites you like to visit? What if you were automatically redirected to a “similar” site without your knowledge or permission?
  • What if your own site was no longer visible on the web or if it took MUCH longer to load your site than to load others?
  • What if every search query typed in for real estate your area came back with a single franchise — the competition’s and you had no way to change that because they had an exclusive agreement with the ISP/Host/Search Engine providers in your area?

Sound impossible? It’s not….I’ve just returned from Memphis, the host city for the 3rd National Conference on Media Reform. I must say that about 17 years ago, I would have attended this (and probably the two prior conferences) from a completely different perspective — one of a journalist.

This year, I attended for one reason only — I wanted to learn more about the organizations and the individuals dedicated to helping insure that everyone who wants to define, pipeline, shunt and stifle the Internet is stopped. I went with one issue “Keep your grubby paws off my Internet!”

I did this because my own business and the businesses of those with whom I work — both clients and peers — will be dramatically affected by the happenings over the next few months. And the scary part? Few of them even know about the issues. So, I wanted to go and get the tools I needed to do my part to both halt the stifling of my online freedom, and to be able to have the tools I needed to educate and inform my clients, my peers and my family/friends.

What happened was I learned alot more than I planned. As a person who niches, I run the risk of becoming a bit tunnel visioned. There are bigger issues about the media and civil rights that cluster around the issue that brought me to the conference. Granted, there are more things I need to know and to learn.

The conference was full of presentations. Many were running concurrently. Thankfully, many of the sessions were also recorded. (And you can access the MP3 versions of these sessions by visiting freepress.net’s online program and by clicking the links of the sessions you would like to hear.)

Yes, many of the sessions were highly political. Many were even radical. But, the essence remained the same throughout. We are in the middle of the biggest revolution that media has ever known. It’s bigger than the creation of movable type presses… not by degrees but exponentially. The amount of information available and the number of people who have access to all that information is astounding. Simply astounding.

There is nothing that you can’t find in the cloud of the Internet and it’s becoming easier and easier to find what you need. Search engines are getting better, website content is becoming more accessible, innovation and sharing is becoming the norm — not the exception.

Despite these facts, the US is falling behind. Our broadband speeds are lower than most developed countries and we pay substantially more for that slower access. The fiber optic infrastructure we were promised (and that we and the government paid to have put in place) has not been delivered. Rural and lower income areas are still lagging shamefully behind in the access curve. I know about the rural portion of this, since I’ve fought my own battles to secure decent Internet access for years.

Free or low-cost community broadband is being fought by telecommunications giants (they can’t stand the competition). And now, with the largest merger in the history of the world (AT&T) we have only managed to secure a two year agreement to observe Net Neutrality. Only two years.

Legislation is going to be required to extend that into permanency and the users of the Internet are finding new, innovative ways to reach out to the masses to educate and promote this cause… and it’s working.

But I’m afraid it may not work fast enough.

This is not a politically popular topic. Political careers will be made and lost at the hands of the telecommunications fly-paper currently under consideration. This means that the decisions will all be made quickly — and they will all be made this year, before the next major election year.

You can view some of my information on the National Conference for Media Reform 2007 by visiting WickedBlog.com, and I’ll be adding more information on topics of particular importance both here and on my blog in the near future. For now, consider how you want your Internet to serve you, how you want to be able to serve your own clients online and determine if the decisions being made now by Congress, the FCC, and the other “powers that be” are really serving your needs.

Realize that in the next few years… VERY few years… the Internet and broadband will be THE delivery vehicle for all media other than print. And, with the changes lately, many of the print publications now have their content online as well. With this as the only way to effectively distribute and consume information… is this a topic that you can afford to ignore?

I don’t think so either. Learn more by reading an article on Net Neutrality by Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law School, and excellent presenter of the basics of this topic in easy-to-digest format.

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