A Threat to Freedom

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Save the Internet – Our democracy depends on it. We urge you to learn more about Net Neutrality by clicking “Save The Internet”.

It’s Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. My husband, Dick, and I are seated at our desks in the home office we share — each writing articles for tomorrow’s distribution of the LA Progressive. This has become our weekly pattern. He’s writing about Vincent Bugliosi, the famed prosecutor turned best-selling author. I’m writing the article you are reading about saving the internet.

Each week we attend at least one of the events we publicize in Progressive Events. During the events, we generally take notes, then report on the event in the following week’s LA Progressive. Last week, we attended the Common Cause’s Media Reform Group presentation on Internet Freedom. This article is about some of the things discussed at that presentation but WAIT, please keep reading. I know this may sound like a dry topic but there is important information here that needs your attention. Plus, I’ve tried to make it interesting even to those of us who are not way into computers.

The Media Reform Group — Jim Rhyne, Tapia Martinez, Amanda Schaffer and Dante Atkins – discussed media ownership, the blogosphere, net neutrality, and open platform cellphones. The presentations and handouts were chock full of information. The team did a great job. So great, in fact, that we walked away thinking what our lives would be like if the things we now take for granted were no longer available. For the first time, it struck me – the Internet is an integral part of our lives. I began to reflect on the ways the Internet has changed my life. In ways too numerous to count, the life I have today barely resembles the life I had just 10 years ago – but for the Internet.

Here’s a short list:

  1. Dick and I met on an on-line dating service — we both took advantage of a promotional free week on one of those on-line services. Dick was approaching his last free day when he saw my picture and profile. He made contact with me and we’ve been together ever since. Best decision he ever made.
  2. We bought the home where we currently live because I saw it for sale on the Internet and fell in love with it. We were able to take a virtual tour of the house on-line before taking an actual tour; the on-line experience sold us
  3. Both of our fathers use the Internet extensively to communicate, learn and continue to stay active in virtual communities in their senior years. This is keeping them in tune with the world, their surroundings and minimizes the isolation so many seniors experience.
  4. We write a weekly newsletter that reaches thousands at a cost that would have been prohibitive without the Internet. If this were done the old-fashioned way, we couldn’t afford the postage much less the cost of printing
  5. Through our website and other on-line social networks, we’ve developed relationships with hundreds of other like-minded people we wouldn’t have met otherwise
  6. Our activism on issues that matter to us is tremendously boosted because we can accomplish so much more than would have been possible with snail mail etc. By pressing the send button, we can literally reach thousands.
  7. We found a church we love by doing a Google search. Belief Net has a fun quiz that helps you find a church that matches your needs. That quiz ultimately resulted in us attending Neighborhood Church
  8. We found our Northeast Democratic Club by doing a Google search
  9. We learn new recipes, obscure bits of trivia, access interactive maps that help us to get around town without getting lost, buy lots of books, order pizza, make doctor’s appointments, research for articles, research for medical conditions, compare prices on everything from TVs to cars to shoes, arrange vacation plans, keep in touch with family and friends—the list goes on and on

Our computers have become the most used item in our home. When we log on we assume we’ll be able to access any Web site — without restrictions except for the occasional user name and password requirement. We’ve come to depend upon and regularly use features like online videos, podcasts, search capability, and email.

Occasionally, when we experience technical problems like an unusually slow connection, or if our system locks up, I wonder if the powers that be are somehow sabotaging us. Heck, we’ve published three articles this week on Vincent Bugliosi’s assertion that the president of the United States should be prosecuted for murder as soon as he leaves office. In lots of countries making an assertion like that could get you arrested, but in the United States, we can say it and repeat it as many times as we like. We can even begin a movement to make it happen. This kind of freedom is one of the things that makes this country great and keeps it strong. But these freedoms are not endorsed by everyone nor are they exercised by everyone.

The Internet, in many respects, has leveled the playing field. The LA Progressive is essentially run by the two of us, and we have day jobs (many fantastic writers also contribute to this site). But having a team of two doesn’t make our site slow to access or difficult to find. The LA Progressive website comes up just as quickly and is just as accessible as the Washington Post website. What makes this all possible is “Network Neutrality.” Also called “Internet Freedom,” Net Neutrality is the guiding principle that ensures the Internet remains free and unrestricted. According to Save the Internet.com, “Net Neutrality prevents the companies that control the wires bringing you the Internet from discriminating against content based on its ownership or source.” However, there are some who would like this to change so Save the Internet is taking this issue to Washington with the Internet Freedom Preservation Act 2008 (HR 5353)

Large cable and telephone companies would like to charge for providing 1) smooth access to Web sites, 2) speed to run applications, and 3) permission to plug in devices such as extra hard drives, game controllers, and wireless routers. They want to charge Web site operators like us, application providers, and device manufacturers for the right to use the network. Their goal is to discriminate against those who don’t or can’t pay. Failure to pay would result in a site owner’s website not loading as quickly or a manufacturer’s application or device not working as well. Without legal protection, the end users could find that a favorite web site has been blocked or slowed down so much that it’s rendered unusable.

According to Save The Internet.com, “The network owners say they want a “tiered” Internet. If you pay to get in the top tier, your site and your service will run fast. If you don’t, you’ll be in the slow lane.”

sharon-kyle.gifSo, even if you are not a computer geek, a programmer, or a power user, you can be affected by these changes. We urge you to learn more by clicking “Save The Internet”. Let’s stand together to protect this freedom all of us have come to depend upon.

Sharon Kyle

Other articles by Sharon:

LA Progressive

Published by the LA Progressive on June 29, 2008
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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the BlackCommentator.com. Photo courtesy Wadeva Images. www.wadevaimages.com