Net Neutrality : Not a Sexy Issue, But Worth Fighting For

‘The concept of net neutrality is the guiding principle of a free and open Internet.’
By Dustin Michael Harris / October 23, 2008

Does anyone remember Y2K?

I realize eight years ago seems like an eternity, another lifetime even, but think back and recall how you approached the Y2K “crisis.”

Did you stock up on canned goods and batteries? Did you spend the New Year in an underground bunker?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making fun of you if you did. At the time, a lot of people were nervous. Some people even thought it might be the end of the world. Planes were supposed to fall out of the sky, while your kitchen appliances finally exacted their revenge on you and your family.

Largely, nothing happened. Y2K was a wash. The ball dropped, the planes kept motoring along and the blender stayed put.

I bring up Y2K not because I like mentioning irrelevant pop culture items, although that is a favorite hobby of mine. Does anyone remember “Alf?” But I digress …

No, I bring up Y2K because something good came out of it – institutions and government realized how important technology is to our society.

Many local, state and federal institutions upgraded their computer systems and improved the technology infrastructure as a result of the Y2K threat. The same is true for some corporations and private businesses.

Now, eight years later, the role of technology is even more important. We are a wired world with a wired global economy. It’s no wonder that both Barack Obama and John McCain address the issue of technology and network neutrality in their campaign literature.

Network neutrality is not something you’ll hear a lot about on CNN. It’s not a hot button issue, but it is very important and could have lasting effects on how the Internet shapes and delivers information.

The concept of net neutrality is the guiding principle of a free and open Internet. Net neutrality prevents Internet service providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down content based on the source.

For example, net neutrality prevents Comcast from tampering with the bandwidth regarding certain sites, essentially deciding which pages open right up and which pages won’t load at all.

Understandably, major communications giants are against the concept of net neutrality. There’s a lot of money to be made should ISPs be allowed to function as gatekeepers to the Internet. Users might have to purchase extra applications to open familiar sites or be forced to “pay for speed” at certain sites.

The site has been a leader in the fight to preserve net neutrality because obviously there’s more at stake than simply being able to quickly download that old Devo tune you’ve been dying to hear. Allowing major corporations the ability to make difficult, even restrict, some of the information we view on the Internet is a very slippery slope. In many ways, it could become the digital version of burning books.

According to each of their Web sites, Obama and McCain differ in their support for network neutrality. Obama firmly supports it, while McCain “does not believe in prescriptive regulation like ‘net-neutrality,’ but rather he believes that an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices.” The McCain site goes on to champion the senator’s efforts to protect consumer privacy and prevent spam.

Net neutrality is one of the many issues that will get lost in the economic firestorm we find ourselves in. But the question is, can we afford to ignore it?

Source / Naperville Sun

Thanks to Media Reform Daily / The Rag Blog

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