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A Plea for Net Neutrality

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Message Charles Sullivan
The early days of radio and television promised to bring enlightenment to the world. The public air waves, we were told, would be used for the public good; as a tool for education and for the spread of democracy. That has simply not been the case. The public airwaves, like all things public, were usurped by profit seeking capitalists to promote commercialism, propaganda, and the privatization of profits. It was another example of socialized cost and privatized profits that are a characteristic of capitalism. Not only were the public airwaves used as an instrument to exploit and to control the masses, they were used to dumb down America. Entertainment and consumerism quickly supplanted education and every other form of social uplift that should have permeated the air waves.

It is important to understand that capitalism rarely works in the public interest. Profit motive is the driving force. Any public good that stems from it is purely accidental.

The corporate media that was long ago used as a weapon against the people is still used to promulgate the lies and distortions that have torn this nation asunder and set the world ablaze with war and discord. The shameless promotion of the war in Iraq and the brutal occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israeli military are poignant examples. The commercial media is used against us like a weapon to promote the most barbaric human behavior and they are allowed to call it liberation, democracy, and Christianity. Invading and occupying armies are called liberators, while those defending their homes are labeled insurgents and terrorists.

Beyond their use to promote war, both at home and abroad, the public air waves are also used to endorse consumption on a grand scale that is detrimental to the health of the planet, so that a few get rich by exploiting the many.

So infected are the public airwaves with the lies and distortions of capitalism and the military industrial complex, that there is no room for the expression of opposing opinions or dissent. The perspectives presented are so homogenized and conformist as to be nearly indistinguishable from one another. This mush is spoon fed into the malleable minds of the restless consumer, if I may borrow a phrase from Neal Young, resulting in a bloated corpse of humanity that is essentially brain dead and unable to act in its own defense.

Enter the Internet, one of the last bastions for democracy and the free and open exchange of ideas. The Internet provides a place where people around the world can gather, share ideas, enjoy a laugh, and seek truth. It is not perfect but it is a resource that is pregnant with possibilities. It is one of the last places where one can readily read dissenting points of view that are no longer possible in the mainstream of corporate reportage and synthesized news. Thank goodness we can still gather at web sites like this and create a vision for a just and peaceful future, as an alternative to war that will not end in our lifetimes.

If the world's largest telecommunications companies have their way that will change. Currently, the complex series of ones and zeroes that move at high speed through millions of miles of cables and airwaves are treated equally""a byte is a byte is a byte, whether yours, mine or Bill Gates'. The concept of net neutrality stems from this principle. Telecommunications giants such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to change that by creating a two-tiered superhighway""a technological toll road, if you will. Users who pay additional fees, primarily corporate clients promoting capitalism, would have unfettered access to the fast lanes. The rest of us would, rather than being treated as equals, become second class citizens stuck in the slowest lanes with the poorest service. In the worst case scenario service could be denied altogether.

The greatest danger is that the Internet would no longer be free. The world's largest telecommunications companies would become the gatekeepers that control the flow of information and ideas. Thus, web sites like this one might function so poorly, because the corporate gate keepers do not approve of its content, that they would essentially become unusable. Web sites that provide a medium for writers who challenge the corporate paradigm, such as the one you are now reading, could operate so slow that they would lose all but the most loyal following.

In the familiar parlance of corporate speak the telecommunications companies and their puppets in Congress, for example, Alaska senator Ted Stevens, a republican, want us to believe that net neutrality amounts to burdensome regulation that stifles innovation and reduces corporate profits. The supporters of the telecommunications bill making its way through Congress are shameless promoters of predatory capitalism and they should be impeached.

If net neutrality is defeated the result will be a familiar one that characterizes all capitalist societies divided by class. Once again, it will be those with money who get preferential treatment. It will be much like our American coin operated congress in which capital is equated to free speech. Those with money will have access, those without will not.

It is dangerous to get between a Grizzly Bear and her cubs; but it is far more dangerous to get between a capitalist and his dollar. Men like Ted Stevens, who so typify Congress these days, are a slave to his corporate pay masters. He does not serve the interest of the people or the commonwealth any more than do AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Senator Steven's abysmal voting record speaks for itself. It is all about socializing cost and privatizing wealth""predatory capitalism.

More information on net neutrality can be found at www.savetheinternet.com or www.itsournet.org.
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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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