Demand Net neutrality as a basic right

All free speech is converging on the Internet. Can speech still be called 'free' if access to it is controlled by a profiteering few?

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This is the crux of Net neutrality. Soon, all media will go through the same high-bandwidth pipes. That even applies to today's print newspapers and magazines. Once they go fully digital, there will be vanishingly few ways to access that content without an Internet subscription and a computer.

If ISPs are able to restrict access in whole or in part to information sources anywhere on the Internet, they are effectively blocking free speech. They are inserting themselves into the distribution of news and information -- as hijackers. Never mind the nefarious games carriers will play in order to fill their coffers by fleecing both their customers and the content providers in the process.

The carrier in the middle

Imagine if you took a taxi to your neighborhood store to buy a newspaper, and just before you got there, the driver demanded an extra $5 to let you buy that newspaper. He isn't working for the newsstand; he just determined that you were buying a newspaper and wanted extra money. You already paid for the ride, and you'll pay for the newspaper, but he wants some, too.

Then he whips out a list showing that above and beyond the normal taxi fare, you'll have to pay $6 if you buy a pie at the local pizza joint; $10 if you have the temerity to go to the department store; and $20 if you go to the movie theater. He isn't providing any extra services beyond the ride; he's just extorting cash from you because he thinks he can. And in your neck of the woods, that taxi service is a monopoly -- you have no other choice.

This is what the ISPs want in both the wired and wireless Internet worlds. If we let it happen, we'll get exactly what we deserve: all our information spoon-fed to us by faceless corporations that have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that they think they can.

We need to make access to information on the Internet a basic human right; otherwise, the rights we've enjoyed for centuries will melt away, buried under miraculous technology controlled by robber barons with dollar signs dancing in their heads.

This story, "Demand Net neutrality as a basic right," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com.

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