Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update on Net Neutrality: Where Do You Stand?

cross posted from my Media Justice column

or the 50th post of this column I focused on Net Neutrality. I really think this is the issue of our generation. Net Neutrality basically is an open Internet that folks can have access to and express themselves. Think of it as the freedom of speech on the Internet. Sounds great right? I mean, that’s why Amplify exists and why so many of us have our own blogs here. It’s also why we can enjoy going to spaces where we choose to get our information to share with others or educate ourselves.

Net Neutrality is not guaranteed. Last week the House voted to pass
House Joint Resolution 37 which will block the FCC from protecting our right to having an open Internet called a “resolution of disapproval.” The party line vote was 15 to 8 and gives “phone and cable companies absolute, unrestricted power over the Internet.” This means that many broadband providers can block their customers’ ability to access certain websites. For example, If you pay Time Warner Cable or Comcast for your Internet service they can choose, without your permission, to limit what sites you can access, this includes ones you visit often or may even work for.

A “resolution of disapproval” is sort of unique as Forbes blogger Larry Downes
explains: “resolution of disapproval is a unique form of legislation authorized by the 1996 Congressional Review Act. It establishes an expedited procedure for Congress to nullify new rulemakings by independent federal agencies including the FCC. The CRA was a key piece of the Republicans’ 1994 “Contract with America,” in many ways a precursor to the recent “Tea Party” movement for limiting government and reigning in the federal bureaucracy.”

This is not something new, but if this is the first time you are hearing about it please go back and check out my Net
Neutrality piece that gives some background and detailed information.

Now that the House has voted to block the FCC, it goes to the Senate and then the White House. Although President Obama states he will veto the resolution, but is it really necessary to wait until it gets to that point? We protest and stand up for healthcare, reproductive rights, and human rights. All of these intersect with having an open Internet. The revolution in Egypt was a part of a youth led movement that used the Internet, social networks, and new forms of media and communication to share what was occurring.

I remember the amazing forms of media that youth are creating, the new media that is being produced that encourages mentorship, responsibility, and
community involvement, and the new representations that challenge stereotypes that we have access to because of the open Internet. What will my work be like if I don’t have access to such spaces and creativity? How may the messages and education I seek to share and move forward be stifled because of such limitations? How can we begin to create more access for folks who don’t have it if we have such regulations?

These are all questions that are difficult and uncomfortable for me to consider and ask myself. But they are necessary. They have helped me make a decision on supporting an open Internet. Although I support an open Internet and Net Neutrality, I encourage you to read up on the history and current movements that are going on to make your own decision. Keep in mind HOW you find out that information. Do you do most of your research online? How do you imagine that may change if Net Neutrality is squashed?

If you choose to support an open Internet
encourage your Senators to do the same and represent you and what you believe as they agreed to when they took office. If you choose not to support an open Internet do the same and reach out to your Senators and share what you think. Either way, make sure your voice is heard and that you are represented how you choose. Let’s not be complacent on this issue!

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