Net Neutrality

Three months ago, Pro-Choice America group, NARAL, attempted to send its subscribers a universal message on the Verizon network. The message was not delivered, at least, not at the time the group’s officers anticipated.

Verizon, without warning or reason, blocked transmission of the text. Although the telecommunications giant repealed this imprudent act following outcries from communications muckrakers and internet protection groups, one cannot help but point to Verizon’s censorship as exhibit A in the case to preserve net neutrality.

Internet neutrality, rooted in the principle that everyone should have equal access to information disseminated on the virtual highway, is currently being challenged by IS providers, particularly AT&T and Verizon. In an effort to protect and further concretize their commercial supremacy, these providers of internet access recently re-ignited the lobby in Congress to restrict and filter certain content, citing their need to recover infrastructural fees accrued for the role they play in giving consumers access to limitless information on the net.

Essentially, AT&T and Verizon are forming partnerships with digital-age gurus like Cisco, to develop technology that weeds out content that carries what they classify as offensive and derogatory political views. If Congress gives the green light, these companies will have carte blanche authority to charge consumers a premium to access sites that they have censored or siphoned. Additionally, they will also have the power to desist from providing service to customers who visit sites that question fine-prints in their contracts or expose any wrong doing on their part. I think they have progress the wrong way round.

In a recent, live web concert, Pearl Jam lead singer, Eddie Vedder’s lines were muted by AT&T when he presented his incendiary views on the direction US President, George Bush, should take. When Sir Tim Berners Lee created the web, this was not the path he envisioned. In fact, the scientist is quoted as saying he “didn’t ask permission” when he started this project, and is “worried” that this freedom will end.

For a while, I was convinced the freedom of information that net neutrality affords was moving us forward. But the big-wigs that charge us to enter the gateway of the internet seem to have a different view. In response to their efforts to strip consumers of the right to choose and prioritize what they desire to view on the net, coalitions like have partnered with big companies like Google to issue consumer-supported petitions to Congress to block the actions of the IS providers.

Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, wrote an open letter to internet users, sensitizing them to the potential danger in remaining silent while the telecom companies form cartels to change the very essence of freedom of information and access.

Indeed, net neutrality allowed companies like Google, the opportunity to reach the public directly since its start-up. To the delight of impatient surfers like me, Google rendered Jeeves senile with its top notch, high speed search engine optimization capabilities. And no doubt, YouTube changes the way we look at the world on a daily basis. Call me crazy, but I still think if we look closely enough at what Tubers are posting, we may just find Osama.

It seems AT&T and Verizon may have to cartelize for a long while if they plan to take on the Google guys. If AT&T, which also owns Bell South, is worth billions, Google is worth trillions. Let’s face it; the Google guys have their own part of speech.

So far, groups from the UK and Canada are on board the mission for net neutrality. However, I have seen neither response nor reaction from the diaspora where this very crucial matter is concerned. Am I correct in concluding the Caribbean is not very keen on being a part of a debate, the outcome of which may summarily change our freedom to browse?

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