Yesterday the good folks at www.SaveTheInternet.com hosted an online web forum for bloggers with Bill Moyers. Bill is doing a segment called “The Net At Risk” during his “Moyers on America” program later this month. He met with several bloggers and net-aware individuals to discuss their own concerns, to ask questions and to offer feedback before the new documentary airs nationwide.
I attended the event and must say that it was a worthwhile use of my time, even though Tuesdays are always extremely busy for me.
The “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” approach to this topic by the Telcom industries and some politicians irritates me. I’m a firm believer in minimizing governmental interference in most things — so my feelings on Net Neutrality are a little off my usual mark. But, I want to ensure — and I want assurance — that the cable and phone companies can’t, in essence, control the access to unlimited information by shunting the pipelines and filtering content.
I know some people argue that some things should be filtered out, that smut is unnecessary, etc, etc. Yeah, I have three kids. I understand that stance. I know the vast volume of smut available on the Internet. I know it’s an overwhelming issue when trying to train children to go out into the great wide open to seek information, while simultaneously trying to keep them away from said smut.
However, that’s a parenting issue, not a corporate one and not a government one. I’ll deal with that myself, here at home, thank-you-very-much. Besides, whether I agree with it or not, people have the right to access the information they want. For instance, what if I were a smut-monger myself? Who gives anyone else the right to tell me what I can see? What I can’t see? Who gets to define that for me? Who will assume the position of parenting my surfing habits, and thus assert that as an adult I’m not capable of making those decisions for myself? Telephone and Cable companies? I don’t think so. Besides, with the content provided by Cable these days, wouldn’t that be a bit hypocritical? Just a tad?
Legislatively encouraging “tiers of service” will, in essence, further differentiate the “haves” and the “have nots” of Internet access. Yes, I know that some people still opt for dial up. I know that even in my own DSL provider, there are “fast and faster” options. I know it’s already happening in some areas. I also know that the need for speed will only increase. And I believe that the spread of the infrastructure to provide that speed will not be adversely affected if “tiers of service” and the accompanying boost in rates for “higher tiers” are denied. The companies may not make money quite as quickly, but they will make steadily increasing revenues. The recent figures on AOL’s profit margins speaks volumes — and SHOW volumes. What other company shows growth like that?
As the content continues to require wider and wider bandwidth for delivery, those with “dumbed-down” connections will, in essence, not be able to access that content. And the content compression technologies cannot possibly keep up with the “Joe on the street” content provider in a venue as diverse as the Internet.
It should stay open, free, and easily accessible by everyone. As Moyers pointed out, we are one of the slowest of the developed countries to spread and improve broadband access right now. The Internet and the information it offers — the commerce potential (which is far beyond what most of us “in the business” already see) the educational opportunities (which are still sadly under utilized in most school systems) are all dependent on free, unfettered access.
To learn more about the Net Neutrality issue, and to get the information you need to let your political representatives know your feelings on keeping the net free… visit www.SaveTheInternet.com.
It’s a complicated issue and pro Net Neutrality stances don’t lend themselves to the same convenient little “sound bites” and “scare tactics” currently being used by the Telcom folks. It’s much easier to scare people into submission than to encourage them to fight to maintain their freedom. The Patriot Act proves that. But the long term effects of a failure to promote Net Neutrality will go beyond the reach and scope of any peeling away of personal rights in this country to date, IMHO.
After all, the television and radio and newspaper accounts of local and world events are amazingly stilted and watered down. The Internet, IMHO, is the only place an individual can easily go to get the full spectrum of opinions and facts on any given topic. And I, for one, don’t want that to be diminished in any way or demolished all together. Keeping the Net Neutral is essential to allowing equal access to all individuals. It’s important. It matters. It’s worth fighting for.
If you want to listen to the audio of this event, visit:
1. Full Recording (streaming audio, text chat, and co-browsing) (Playback time 62:21):
2. Original audio recording in WMA format (9.6 MB file; playback time 62:21):
3. Converted audio recording in MP3 format (25 MB file; playback time 62:21):