Nobody really owns the Internet, right? I mean, how is it possible to own something so vast that contains such a large quantity of information?
Well the answer, for now, is that nobody owns the Internet. Anyone can put anything they want (and I do mean ANYTHING) online for little or no cost. There is a free flow of information, with the people producing the content no different than the people consuming it. If you wanted to video tape yourself talking about issues your passionate about while playing Sum 41 (totally random example), then put it on YouTube for millions of people to possibly see, then more power to you.
Such a thing would be impossible in the "traditional" media of television or newspaper. If you wanted to start a TV station, you'd need billions of dollars and a lot of help. All you need to post whatever you want on the Internet is a computer and an Internet connection. Big companies that used to be in charge of what media texts you consume, such as cable companies, saw that the Internet could give you for free much more than they could, and it scared the hell out of them. They saw that they were losing their control over the media, and they saw the Internet as an opportunity to regain that.
In essence, that is what net neutrality is. It makes you and me equals in terms of what we can access on the Internet, and what we can contribute. http://www.savetheinternet.com/ supplies a very practical definition. "Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination." Basically it's the principle that allows everyone equal access to the Internet.
After reading all this you might be thinking, as Ian Reilly often puts it:
Well don't worry, hopefully after my blog post, everything will be clear. Firstly, the Internet has tremendous possibilities to aid in democratic processes. In a democracy, anyone is allowed to think anything. With the Internet, these thoughts can be heard by the masses. The Internet makes it easier to get your message out there, but it also does something more. The Internet creates a participatory culture, a two way culture where the consumer, after consuming content, goes on to contribute. "the technologies of communication will serve to enlarge human freedom everywhere, to create inevitably a counsel of the people." (Stauber and Rampton, 195) With the technology available to us the common phrase 'by the people, for the people' takes on a whole new meaning. When there is net neutrality, the Internet becomes a platform for ideas in which truly anyone can participate.
There is, however, a darker side to this new realm of possibility. Corporations who fear losing their control over what kinds of content you see in the media are thinking of charging to post certain things online, or accessing certain websites. They want the Internet to function more like television in that what you get is very controlled and costs you money, and only a very elite group can have their voices heard. People who use the material that others have the copyright too are already being called "pirates" and "thieves". "My fear is that unless we come to see
this change, the war to rid the world of Internet “pirates” will also rid our culture of values that have been integral to our tradition from the start." (Lessig, 26) Here Lessig is referring to the right to free speech, and the fact that the government can't sensor any speech. He is, of course, against people blatantly using the copyrighted work of others. His fear, however, is the collapse of net neutrality. If you put restrictions on what one can or cannot do online, eventually no one will be able to do anything.
The biggest problem with the fact that net neutrality is threatened is that nobody knows about it. The fact that I'm posting this online, right now, for free, wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for net neutrality. Hopefully this blog entry at least gets the word out. Although I wouldn't say I'm IN love with the Internet, I do love it. I love it just the way it is, and I don't want it to change. If this keeps being an invisible issue the floodgates of information opened by the Internet will be closed forever.
"Frequently Asked Questions." Save the Internet: Fighting for Internet Freedom. Free Press Action Fund. 12 Nov 2008 http://www.savetheinternet.com/.
Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. New York, USA: The Penguin Press, 2004.
Stauber, John, and Rampton, Sheldon. Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lie and the Public Relations Industry. 1st ed. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
7 years ago