Save the web

Get informed about net neutrality before it’s too late.

You want to sound paranoid? Refer to anything as a conspiracy taking place among powerful players. High gasoline prices because of the Bush family’s relationships with Middle Eastern oil sheiks? Nutjob. Too consistent prices among cellular providers suggests price fixing? Tinfoil hat. Big business wrests control of the egalitarian internet to improve its bottom line? Looney tunes.

But the fact of the matter is that there’s a paper trail. Various telecom memos and company policy papers have been leaked to the internet and to internet reporters who are struggling to help the internet-using public understand that the greatest boon to humanity in the past 20 years is about to be stolen from them—moments before children in developing nations are enabled for a trip into this educational Eden. (Not to mention, depriving all those Third World porn consumers of naked pictures of Heather Graham.)

Look, there is enormous money to be had by the telecom giants. People kill and die for money in this country every day. Some people will hurt others for relatively small amounts, like the change in someone’s pocket or a desired balloon of heroin. The internet, particularly when it comes to a tiered internet on which the telecoms can exchange huge dollars to enhance or degrade the quality of content, represents sums most of us can’t even imagine—billions almost immediately, trillions over years.

So, if you think that Comcast, AT&T or Verizon would hesitate to put $100 million into an ad and lobbying campaign to convince Congress and internet users that it would be in their best interests to prevent the government from regulating the internet, you’re crazy. Naïve. Incognizant of history.

Democrat Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced House Resolution 5353, the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act,” in Congress a few months ago. It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to “preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of broadband networks that enable consumers to reach, and service providers to offer, lawful content, applications and services of their choosing.”

Few expect this bill to go very far. There are too many powerful groups aligned against it. But just as weak, individual fingers come together to form a fist, individual internet users must come together to assimilate, understand and proclaim the need to preserve their intellectual freedom. And that means you. Get involved: Call your representative; inform your friends. We need an internet that has enough regulation to prevent the giant telecom companies from changing its fundamental workings, but little enough regulation that the government can’t censor or favor one type of content or user over another.

Because that’s what “net neutrality” is all about. The greatest democratizing media in the history of the world must remain free if it is going to achieve a destiny beyond a couple of telephone wires to download pornography, laughing baby videos and AT&T advertisements.

Hey, just because we’re paranoid about giant corporations working behind the scenes to fill their own coffers while emptying the little guys’ pockets doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us.