Freedom of the Controlled Internet Speech

The Internet is great. One can log on anywhere and learn about anything. There is no regulation, all “Internet users get access to any Web site on an equal basis. Foreign and domestic sites, big corporate home pages and low-traffic blogs,” like this one, “all show up on a user’s screen in the same way”.[i] Let freedom of speech ring across the interwebs. But like all great things, regulation could change that.

The Federal Communications Commission will be meeting tomorrow (December 21, 2010) to discuss “net neutrality”. The New York Times describes the current draft of regulation on net neutrality, as companies who provide internet access “can give preferential treatment to content providers who pay for faster transmission, or to their own content, in effect creating a two-tier Web, and about whether they can block or impede content representing controversial points of view.”

This would give the power to the Internet providers, allowing them to choose what free speech is. Networks have claimed that their first amendments rights allow them to control of “communications on ‘their’ networks.”[ii] Chris Witteman of Ars Technica, believes this would lead to  “only handful of fully vested First Amendment speakers in the country, and the rest of us will speak and receive information only to the extent that the network owners allow.”

If company A is a very big supporter of one political candidate they could make it so when you log on the Internet using their service you would not be able to access any blog, article or website that speaks negative about them.

I can see the positives of this, denying the use of the web for holocaust deniers or hate groups. However, because I do not agree with them does not mean that they should not have the same rights that I do, to have a blog that the whole world can see and disagree with.

Senator Franken of Minnesota stated in Op-ed for the Huffington Post, The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time, that both the FCC Chairman Genachowski and President Obama are supporters of net neutrality. However, “reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal” which would put an end the internet as we know it.

Unfortunately, I do not think there is much we the American people can do. The FCC makes crazy rules all the time. In 2009 they created a new rule that radio stations can no longer play more than three songs by the same artist/ two off the same album in three-hour window, if the station is streamed over the Internet. They also decide what is indecent on the airwaves.So who’s freedom of speech will the FCC support, the American people who use the internet or the companies that give us this outlet?

[i] (The New York Times)

[ii] (Witteman)



It  looks like this just happened.

Here is an recent article about it:

Net Neutrality Put to a Vote


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