Net neutrality is a must

by Joshua Breitbart, Haitian Times

For many of us, the diversity and abundance of information on the Internet has become part of our daily lives. We assume that we will always be able to view the websites of our choosing and even upload our own photos and videos onto the Internet. However, as teachers of radio journalism, we can't take net neutrality – the principle that prohibits discrimination of content and applications on the Internet – for granted. Our organization, People's Production House, includes lessons on net neutrality as part of our year-long courses in public schools because without it, our students could soon be making entertaining and informative radio pieces without the ability to share them online.

With last week's introduction of Resolution 712, the New York City Council has taken up this important issue. While we don't hear much about it in the news, the current debate over net neutrality will determine the future of how we communicate. Two companies alone – Verizon and AT&T – have spent over $20 million on federal lobbying this year trying to thwart The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, a bill in Congress that would enshrine net neutrality in law. Resolution 712, if the Council passes it, would endorse this bill.

Net neutrality was the law of the land until 2005 and it brought us many benefits. Skype is an Internet-based voice service that is extremely popular among the recent immigrants we teach who wish to keep in touch with family around the world. Skype competes with the voice services of cable companies like Optimum and Time Warner. Without net neutrality, those companies could have kept Skype and similar products like Magic Jack from launching by blocking it or charging the companies exorbitant fees that would be passed on to users.

Opponents of net neutrality point to the existing variety of online voice services as evidence that the system works. They call net neutrality a "solution in search of a problem," but the problem is staring anyone who owns an Internet-enabled mobile phone right in the face. As it is now, most cellular phone companies – who have so far been exempt from net neutrality – block Skype from operating on their networks so people are forced to use their minutes for calls rather than their data connections.

This is particularly harmful to poor people, people of color, and seniors who are all more likely to have a mobile phone than a broadband-enabled personal computer or laptop. While laptop users can use whatever chat or voice service they want – thanks, so far, to net neutrality – mobile phone users can only access the parts of the Internet that their service providers approve. For international calls they still have to rely on expensive phone company connections or unreliable pre-paid phone cards. We need to extend net neutrality protections to wireless networks, not allow these kinds of discriminatory practices to spread, especially not now that the Bloomberg administration is finally taking action to close the digital divide in our city with its new NYC Connected Communities initiative.

Some companies say they need to be able to block unreasonable use of their networks. Then why, in 2007, when cable television and Internet service behemoth Comcast was found to be blocking a service called Bit Torrent that is popular for downloading movies, did they at first try to deny it? The Federal Communications Commission penalized the company, but Comcast is challenging the FCC's authority in court – suing for its right to block our access to video services like Bit Torrent or voice services like Skype. Now that Comcast is seeking to purchase NBC Universal, it will have even more reason to block competitors' content traveling over their wires.

For community journalists like the immigrants, low-wage workers, and public school students that we teach at People's Production House, this is a scary thought. The NBC corporation has been broadcasting its content since 1926, while our trainees are just now finding the power of distributing their own media through the Internet. They're finding new ways of engaging in civic life, new job skills, and a new sense of community, locally and globally. Without net neutrality, Comcast and other corporate giants could take that power away.

People's Production House, along with New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Picture the Homeless, and many other local community organizations are endorsing the City Council resolution. There will be a hearing on Resolution 712 in City Hall on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. To contact your Council Member and show your support, call 311.

Joshua Breitbart is the Policy Director for People's Production House.

article originally published at Haitian Times.

Yes we Need Net Neutrality protections on the Internet

Today at a new blog post which is right on about why we need Net Neutrality was published here:

The article "Net Neutrality: Put Your Foot Down" states The web as you know it is GOING TO END.
• The ease with which to reach your favorite sites is GOING TO END.
• The speed with which to reach those sites is GOING TO END.
• The ease with which you share videos with friends is GOING TO END.
• The freedom to access the site of any organization from Planned Parenthood to The Christian Coalition is GOING TO END.
• Access to the wide selection of web-series is GOING TO END.
• Access to the amazing choice of shopping sites is GOING TO END.
• Access to information from a multitude of educational institutions is GOING TO END.
This is because:
a) You are moving to China.
b) You are moving to Iran.
c) You are severing your ISP connection.
d) The efforts of ATT, Comcast, Time/Warner Cable, Verizon, Verizon Wireless, The NCTA
The correct answer is “d”. The list of restrictions above is currently the plan of the United States TELECOM COMPANIES, who are trying to erode a long-standing Internet principle – Net Neutrality – which keeps the Internet as an open platform. As it stands now, anyone can create and distribute content on the Web and anyone can access any number of sites at comparable speeds. Net Neutrality is what makes the Internet so great – and so vital for innovation and creativity.
These Telecom companies, the people who charge you every month for access to the Internet, have waged an extremely aggressive campaign against the very access for which you’re paying.
They don’t like that they can’t tell you WHAT to watch.
They don’t like that they can’t CONTROL the information you are accessing.
They don’t like that with just a couple of bucks, you can build a website or a platform or a web-series that can garner the size of audience that ONLY THEY USED TO COMMAND.
They don’t like that they can’t get A CUT OF ALL OF IT.
They grew accustom to controlling your phone rates (Hello, Skype). They grew accustom to controlling what you saw on cable. They grew accustom to their arrangement with the studios and the networks. And they grew accustom to the manner in which they financially participated in those arrangements. Now, because of the Internet, we have a different media landscape.
In Washington right now, the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to make Net Neutrality a hard and fast rule for the Internet. This would stop AT&T and other companies from destroying web content and your access to it. Because of this, the Telecom Companies have nearly 500 LOBBYISTS in place to steal your Internet freedom. There are only 535 members of Congress. That’s nearly one lobbyist for every member of Congress. The TELECOM COMPANIES have also (at press time) already spent nearly $75 MILLION dollars to convince lawmakers to restrict your unfettered Internet access. This is serious business. For them AND for us. A liberated Internet will continue to be a reality in your life (and in the lives of your children) if rules like NET NEUTRALITY are in place.
YOU have to make that happen. Tell the FCC and your representatives that the removal of your Internet Freedoms will not stand. TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES that this is NOT HAPPENING.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey