Thursday, November 10, 2011

Senate Votes against Net Neutrality Repeal

Courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo:

The Senate on Thursday voted 52 to 46 against a Republican-sponsored piece of legislation designed to repeal the “network neutrality” rules established by the Federal Communications Commission in December 2010.  Click here for more information on today's vote.

This is something every blogger and user of the web should be keeping an eye on.  Net Neutrality--the idea that all data transmitted across the internet should be treated as equally important and accessible.  The concern is that should net neutrality fail (something many communications companies are hoping for) then consumers would be charged different amounts to access different webpage.  Further, those of us who host a webpage would eventually have to "pay into" special bundled packages that allow for quick access among web surfers (kind of like cable packages).

If you complain about what you have for cable television options or on commercial radio, then you should definitely be concerned with establishing net neutrality.  For example, if I were to search something like "gardening in New Orleans," Joe Schmoe's blog or website about gardening in one of the city's neighborhoods would likely not load up on my computer, or would take a long time to load.  Conversely,  Lowe's or Home Depot's gardening website would load immediately.  This would end up channeling most people to Lowe's or Home Depot's website (where they would have ads and make extra money off of the website hits) instead of Joe Schmoe's website.  We consumers, instead of having the option of choosing between Joe Schmoe's or the other websites, are essentially steered away from Joe Schmoe's and don't learn anything about his nuanced gardening techniques that make sense in the specific climate and soil conditions of his locality.

For folks like me, who are interested in questions about media, citizenship, and democracy, the big concern is that the failure of net neutrality would by default result in viewpoints not fitting with the status quo (on both the right and left ends of the political spectrum) being harder to access and therefore out of sight, out of mind.  So for example, next time there's an argument for war (and there will be a next time) competing viewpoints that extend beyond the dominant Republican/Democrat (or the "Washington Consensus") frames, will likely go unheard and unrecognized.  In fact, recent research shows how people use the web to find news and information that resonates more with their personal circumstances and realities. Imagine if you couldn't find that information on the web.  It's a slow, gradual process, but a likely and predictable consequence should net neutrality fail, and indeed, it's under constant attack from big communications businesses and Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress and in the FCC.

Here's a video that simplifies the main points:

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