If you're not on the web, if it's all face to face, then issues like net neutrality may not be that big a deal to you. But it is a big deal to DIY artists and small businesses who rely on the web to earn a living or promote their work whether or not they recognize it. In its most basic sense, net neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should have equal treatment whether or not it's a big media company or a tiny music label. But that's not the future major internet service providers want to see and much will be decided in coming days.
In an article unavailable to non-subscribers, The Wall Street Journal is said to have revealed that despite President Obama's election-run promises to support an open internet and net neutrality:
"Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a 'fast lane.'"
There's some back and forth going on at the moment about what the FCC is actually up to but keep in mind that sometimes it's the uproar raised during the back and forth that speaks the loudest to politicians.
Net Neutrality Is Part Of A Larger Fight For A Democratic Internet
Some people will probably say we should let the market sort it out but that sort of thinking doesn't seem to be followed by America's major internet service providers which have blocked many local community efforts to provide high-speed, low-cost broadband through lobbying and lawsuits.
That's one of the reasons small towns like Morristown, TN have faster and more affordable broadband than most major U.S. cities. Those who might want to follow suit in states like North Carolina, where I live, have to just accept what we're given. Tennessee is a leader in municipal broadband. North Carolina politicians thought it would be better to deny us that option despite positive examples like Wilson, NC.
Not only is the U.S. no longer a leading nation for internet access speed, despite having created much of the original internet, but our mobile access also sucks in comparison to other countries who have less guns and money than do we.
Here's What Is Being Said About The FCC & Net Neutrality
Community-owned broadband is the area I know best but plenty of smart people are talking about net neutrality and what it means if the FCC falls down on the job:
The New Yorker: Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination
"This is what one might call a net-discrimination rule, and, if enacted, it will profoundly change the Internet as a platform for free speech and small-scale innovation. It threatens to make the Internet just like everything else in American society: unequal in a way that deeply threatens our long-term prosperity."
The Washington Post: Everything you should know about the FCC’s new net neutrality proposal
"Web services could have to pay a toll to reach you; those services could become more expensive as they pass those costs on to you; companies that don't pay up could suffer from slower service; and new firms with innovative ideas might die because they can't spare the cash to pay for the preferential treatment that the new net neutrality rules would allow."
The Economist: More equal than others
"The FCC’s draft would also permit ISPs—a sector dominated by giants such as Verizon and would-be mergees Comcast and Time Warner Cable—to charge content providers like Netflix, Amazon and Google (the picture shows one of the firm's data centres) for speedier, priority transmission of films, videos and other streaming services over the congested “last mile” to users."
In fact, the FCC itself said in 2010 that "fast lane" approaches were not a good thing.
What's The Solution?
A citizen's movement to ensure democracy would be nice but Occupy showed that U.S. citizens are currently not up to the task of stepping up and changing America. But you should make your voice heard and contact your elected representatives about your concerns. There will be more specific opportunities to speak out on this issue as well which you should seize. You don't have to wait for a mass movement to effect change.
It's possible the FCC will step up with a better proposal than leaks have suggested. They may also bypass the courts and focus on the internet as a utility since it has become incredibly important to our daily lives. Any positive moves they make should be strongly supported
The most interesting proposal I've heard to date, though I'm sketchy on the details, comes from Eric Klinker, CEO of BitTorrent, who discusses Content Centric Netowrking and technical approaches that would radically improve content delivery on the internet while creating a fair situation for all involved.
So there are potential political and technical solutions to this problem.
Want To Know More About Net Neutrality?
Obviously I need to learn some more and, if you're in the same boat, here are some places to start:
Electric Frontier Foundation: Net Neutrality
Common Cause: Keep the Internet Free and Open!
Wikipedia: Net Neutrality
I bet there's even more accessible material available to explain net neutrality.
Please share your resources and suggestions in the comments.
- U.S. Court Strikes Down Net Neutrality: What It Means For Music, FOMC Reacts
- Google & Verizon's Version Of Net Neutrality Offers Little Protection For Music Industry Innovation
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) posts music crowdfunding news @CrowdfundingM. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.