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Sci Tech    H2'ed 9/21/13

Attacking Net Neutrality Once Again

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The main question, the one no court can really answer. If the Internet is the communications network created by the human race to communicate fully, openly and world-wide, who gave these guys the right to restrict how we use it? Or, expressed more practically, does the fact that someone owns a wire or a satellite system give them the right to restrict what websites you can visit?

The companies answer would be that, to ensure innovation and development in technology, we have to make money and we can make a whole lot of it on Broadband usage. That's a crock because most innovation and development happens before companies get involved and start investing money (which is usually used mainly for marketing). But few in the media and no one in the court is going to confront these giants with these fundamental untruths.

In reality, the companies say, their main issue is "high capacity" use of their systems: downloading movies or other large files that take up system bandwidth. Why shouldn't they get a return on the amount of use you make of their system? But, intent aside, that is not what they're arguing.

Rather they are saying that the fact that they put you and keep you on the Internet gives them the right to decide how you can use it, where you visit, how much email or web browsing you do. That they insist they won't restrict simple Internet use for most people shouldn't be an issue because we establish rights to protect us against what powerful companies can do and not against what they say they're planning to do.

In fact, the corporations' argument against the FCC's net neutrality ruling isn't only about bandwidth use. They are claiming the right to ban or restrict content and rejecting the idea that the government can impose criteria for what they ban and restrict. The bottom line is that huge corporations would be able to ban your website from any visitor -- the would have that power -- and that's the very power used in countries like China and Iran where Internet use is repressed.

So the question is: Do you trust huge corporations to protect your access to all the information you need and want? Do you trust them to protect your ability to give everyone else access to information you want to spread?

The answer, unless you routinely purchase Brooklyn Bridge shares, is "no". They can't be trusted with the power over your right to communicate. They shouldn't ever be trusted with that power. And the constitution of this country makes clear that they aren't trusted.

While the "net neutrality" debate may seem like a jargon-filled conversation among technologists and free speech advocates, it's really about you and your ability to read what others are writing and write so that others may read it. It's that important.

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Alfredo Lopez is a member of the This Can't Be Happening on-line publication collective where he covers technology and Co-Chair of the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link.
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