Darcy Burner: Safeguarding the Internet is key to the future of our democracy

by Darcy Burner for Congress

Never before in my lifetime has America so urgently needed new leadership to take it in a new direction. The ideals enshrined in our nation's founding texts - freedom, liberty, equality, opportunity - or, the timeless values that have made our democracy a role model for other peoples throughout the world, have either been ignored or forgotten by those currently in power.

But there is hope: a revolution has already begun which is challenging the grip of the current administration and its allies on our country. This people-driven, populist movement is built on the most democratic medium for communication ever invented: the Internet.

The Internet has lowered the barrier to political participation and allowed a new civic dialogue to flourish.

No longer are traditional, corporate-controlled media outlets a chokepoint on whose voices will be heard; no longer is access to the tools for high-impact activism limited to consultants and political professionals; and no longer are Democratic candidates hamstrung by establishment control over resources they need to run winning campaigns.

The Internet is an incredible medium for democracy. But its future is threatened.

The strengths of the Internet lie in its decentralized, organic nature. It is non-proprietary and open. It is remarkable because it is so democratic, embodying the ideals our nation was founded on.

An essential element of democracy is the marketplace of ideas: the best ideas, well-expressed, will win. The Internet makes that more true than it has ever been before in all of human history. Anyone with an idea and the courage to speak it can harness the Internet to create waves of change.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there is a fantastic example of that in the Northwest Progressive Institute. By conventional measures of money and corporate backing it wouldn't have had a chance. But it has become a real force in local politics due to the merit of the ideas espoused and the hard work invested. It was founded by someone who, at the time he began, was not yet old enough to vote.

But there are those who want to distort this marketplace for their own advantage.

Some of America's biggest internet service providers, like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, see the Internet as something they want to own for their own benefit and profit.

They think that owning the pipes (or "tubes", according to Senator Stevens) means they should get to control what goes through them.

Defending the equality of the marketplace of ideas is why net neutrality is so important. Sites like YouTube or Wikipedia, which are not owned by huge corporations, would be threatened, and could likely disappear under a tiered Internet.

If we wish to keep the real power of the Internet - its equalizing nature - we need to guard against the creation of a framework that provides special benefits for a privileged few.

We do not want a world where some packets are more equal than others.

Congress has a responsibility to stop this from happening and act in the best interest of the American people.

If I am successful in my efforts to be elected to the House of Representatives, I will work diligently and fight hard to protect net neutrality and put an end the threatened dismantlement of the equal Internet.

My background in technology and my experience in the business world have prepared me to take a unique leadership role on this issue. I expect I may be the first member of Congress to have written code for Unix C and C++ compilers and interpreters. I know not just how the Internet is used, but how it works. And I'm prepared to fight for it.

article originally published at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/9/27/11550/2877.

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