The term "net neutrality" has the magical property of making most people's eyes glaze over. First, it sounds like a gambling term. "I have a system and net neutrality - I can't lose!" Second, no one using the Internet calls it "the net" anymore. Just like no one in San Francisco calls it "Frisco." So the term "net neutrality" either sounds super techie and over-your-head, or more dated than the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie called ... "The Net."
The concept of Net Neutrality is simple: all content should be treated equally. The Internet should be, as it has been, on a virtual level playing field.
Google and Verizon announced at the beginning of August their agreement for an "Open Internet." In their statement, the FCC will continue to lack the power to enforce an open Internet, and it excludes wireless broadband from transparency, citing proprietary concerns. This is worrisome since wireless broadband is the future of the Internet. Plus, in order to ensure "openness," wireless or not, the Internet should be regulated like any other public utility.
So, as soon as the word "regulation" is uttered, a Frankenstein monster of a faux populist movement arises to dispute and/or cloud the issue. With corporate sponsorship, they've become a loud lobbying spectacle for business interests. Cleverly they use pro-working people language, and often working people themselves, to sell policies of freedom for corporations. Yes, the Tea Party, or the Grand Old Party on caffeine, is (of course) against Net Neutrality.
The Tea Party and its coalition of "grassroots" think-tanks want corporations to be in control of the Internet, so it will "stay open." In a signed letter sent to the FCC and the media the day after the Google/Verizon agreement was announced, the Tea Party groups' statement added that government regulation, "could also remove the ability for parents and ISPs to prevent inappropriate material from entering the home."
Catch that? Let business do what it wants, or you won't be able to protect your children from smut. It's the most vulgar thing I've ever heard. Horribly untrue. And a cynical attempt at fear-mongering. "Your children are at risk!" Deplorable.
Government regulation is always annoying - unless we can't swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or eat eggs, spinach, beef or peanut butter. But wait - annoying to whom? Government regulation irks corporations. For those of us who drive the cars, eat the food or take the medications made by corporations, government regulations are in the most basic way -- lifesavers.
Personally, I would like a government bureaucrat between me and Salmonella.
The Tea Party would have opposed the National Parks system. Sectioning off millions of acres of land which otherwise could be privately developed is a job killer! Letting places like Yosemite Valley just sit there without allowing business to "improve the experience" is an affront to freedom! Uncle Sam's telling Americans where they can and can't build is government overreach! The whole scheme will raise your taxes! And they'll take your guns!
But no, Republican leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt saw how these parks should be nationalized, saved for future generations to have and enjoy. Lincoln coined the phrase "for the people, by the people," the perfect slogan for a walk through a government-regulated and, therefore, pristine forest.
And our more perfect union needs to ensure that the Internet can be open and indifferent to content (even if you disagree with said content). Congress didn't just sit on their hands and hope that just because no one had yet developed Yellowstone it wasn't at risk of such a fate. No, they acted. They protected it. Yellowstone is still there for all of us to enjoy. It's ours.
What needs to happen? Earlier this year, the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia handed down the Comcast Decision stating under current law, the FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate equality of content. This means the law must be changed.
Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that oversees the FCC, said he is for Net Neutrality. Waxman said any bill about the issue would have to come out of his committee. What's taking so long? The hold up is that the term "Net Neutrality" sounds like a fishing ordinance instead of what Senator Al Franken describes as "the free speech issue of our time."
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.