Originally published: December 15, 2009
Last updated: December 15, 2009 - 11:18pm
On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission held a workshop on codification and expansion of open Internet (Network Neutrality) guidelines. Academics, activists and independent content creators targeting minority audiences talked about the need for the regulations to keep deep-pocketed industry gatekeepers from blocking speech or pricing it out of the reach of the next big innovation.
Yale Law School Professor Jack Balkin said that the First Amendment is all about participation, which is the Internet's "gift to mankind." But he said that participation means little if you have to get permission. He said the Internet is a way to "route around network gatekeepers." Network neutrality regulations, he argued, are necessary to preserve that gift of participation from private entities whose natural tendency is to favor their own business interests and shareholders.
He was seconded by Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project, who suggested the harms were neither perceived or future. He cited several examples, including Verizon blocking an anti-abortion message and Comcast impeding BitTorrent traffic among those examples. As to their only being a few examples, he said what is known is only the tip of the iceberg, that it will become increasingly difficult to uncover those instances, and that the "greatest danger" is from what blockages we have not known about and do not now know about.
Joining in support of net neutrality regulations were Michele Combs of the Christian Coalition; Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit blog; Jonathan Moore, of minority-targeted online site Rowdy Orbit; Ruth Livier, writer and online content producer' and Garlin Gilchrist of the Center for Community Change.
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