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Net Neutrality, freedom of information under fire

Anyone involved in interstate commerce knows the drill. You want to move your goods from Point A to Point B, you are required to abide by the same rules and regulations that apply to each and every other company or person. Sure, you can learn the backroads and shortcuts, how to package your material more efficiently, how to get noticed so that more folks want what you have to offer. But if, say, you get caught consistently travelling over the speed limit, trying to haul oversize loads, and /or attempting to bribe officials to look the other way, there’ll be hell to pay. Right?
Not so much, if certain mega-corporations and the Federal Communications Commission have their way. The biggest, most useful and influential purveyor of commerce and ideas—namely the Internet—will soon become a pay-for-play casino owned and run by the rich and powerful. Pretty much like the rest of the United States economy.
Badges? These trans-national corporations don’t need no stinking badges. According to the FCC’s latest decision, as long as they buy the information roadways giant conglomerates can ship their products and information at light speed while those of us who can’t afford to bribe the regulators idle at stop signs and slowly inch forward along the Internet Highway.
American workers have already been victimized by “Free Trade” job outsourcing while corporate profits reach new highs through de-regulation, union busting, and cheap foreign labor. Now individual entrepreneurs and small businesses are facing the same plight with the possible demise of Internet Neutrality.
Internet Neutrality is the simple notion that the exchange of goods and ideas over the Worldwide Web ought to follow the same general regulations of any other kind of commerce. Everybody plays by the same rules, everybody has the same opportunities.
Claire Yurdin, a Washington state resident who recently began an online petition in defense of Internet Neutrality, puts it this way: “Net Neutrality has become the bastion of free speech in this country and around the world. “ Fine and dandy, but what about those speed demons who try to haul undocumented loads and try to finagle their way out of the consequences? They’re unmasked fairly quickly. And the over-reaching benefits are worth the small risk. Says Yurdin, “Abuses have been exposed, voices have been heard that otherwise would not be heard in the controlled press. There is nowhere to hide.”
But there’ll be plenty of places to hide if, say, wealthy corporations or political groups can buy their way to the top of your Google search. Like the current ownership of America’s electoral process by moneyed interests, information will become the prime property of the most powerful if the Internet becomes the playground of the affluent.
A self-starter who learned the wiley ways of the Web from scratch, Claire Yurdin began her current career building websites for free, and now enjoys the monetary and personal rewards of using her Internet expertise for the benefit of others. A true capitalist success story, don’t you think? But a woman who changed careers at age 53? That’s the beautiful equality of the Internet. Observes Yurdin: “The web and computer have no age or sex bias; they only ask ‘Can you do it?’” If Internet Neutrality falls victim to the pay-for-play “free market” of economic oligarchy, that question will become “Can you pay for it?”
So what can We the People do to defend the cause of Internet Neutrality? “Write your representatives in Congress,” suggests Yurdin. “Representatives count the messages received on each issue and pay attention.” And what if your representative is bought and paid for by powerful interests who want to re-make the rules of the Information Highway to further their own profit?
Here in America we have this thing called elections. It’s our chance to click on the proverbial icons of “representatives” who owe allegiance to their financial backers rather than their constituents. Our chance to grab those icons and drag them into the trash. Discover where your local candidates stand on Net Neutrality and defend your right to ride the Information Highway just as freely and safely as everyone else.

Will the Internet now be for sale to the highest bidder?
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
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