Life, Liberty, and Net Neutrality

THE CONTROVERSY over net neutrality has come back to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) where it began, and the commissioners need to hear, immediately, one simple message from ordinary citizens: “Reclassify broadband internet as a telecommunications service.”

You don’t really even need to know what those seven words mean. Just say them—by phone, email, fax, or carrier pigeon—until the commissioners get the idea.

That imperative sentence is aimed at preventing a policy shift that could turn our information superhighway into a fast, expensive toll road for the wealthy and force ordinary citizens onto a two-lane frontage road, with lots of traffic lights.

Net neutrality, as you may recall, is the principle that internet service providers—the companies that own the cable or the wireless frequencies that bring the internet to your device—should treat all digital content the same. Comcast shouldn’t block Amazon Prime to force you into its own video-on-demand service, and Verizon shouldn’t let Netflix pay more to get higher download speeds than its competitors. As a corollary, this means that independent filmmakers and video journalists have the same access to the online audience that the corporate big boys have.

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