How to save the Internet

Russ Caditz-Peck

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If you’re like me, you love the Internet like you’re a nurturing parent. You’ve watched it grow: from the baby years of dial-up and AOL Instant Messenger to high-speed wireless and high-def video today. But in its adolescence, the open Internet now faces an influential bully: the greedy telecom industry.

The telecom industry has challenged Network Neutrality: the guiding principle of the Internet. Net Neutrality protects our ability to use the Web as we do now: visiting any site, using any application and creating any content we can dream up, from YouTube videos to personal blogs.

The nation’s largest telecoms: AT&T, Verizon and Comcast: want to become the Internet’s gatekeepers.

By violating Net Neutrality, online content can be sped up, slowed down or made unloadable depending on which companies or sites can pay to play: and not on which we like the best.

We’ll wind up with e-toll roads: a Web where companies like Google can afford the fast lane, but people like you and me, and the less wealthy sites we care about, will be stuck in the slow lane.

Sound like the paranoid ramblings of your crazy uncle last Thanksgiving? It’s not. CEOs from these very companies have openly stated their intentions and tested them out. They’ve been trying to undermine Net Neutrality for years, and have only increased their efforts as activists and a handful of lawmakers have pushed to make Net Neutrality an enforceable law, rather than just a guiding principle.

The Web is the economic, democratic and cultural core of our generation. As young people, we stand to gain or lose the most in this fight.

Without Net Neutrality, it is unimaginable that entrepreneurs such as Google, eBay, YouTube etc. would ever have emerged. And where do you fit in? Maybe you have the next great idea for the Web. Nothing should stop you from contributing to our economy, democracy and culture: especially not the greed of a few telecom companies.

The good news? On Sept. 21, both President Obama and Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowksi committed to pursuing Net Neutrality. This is a huge victory for fans of an open Internet.

Furthermore, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) has a bill in the House, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, that would make Net Neutrality a law.

The bad news? Now that the telecoms sense that our momentum is building, they are spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and lawyers to destroy Net Neutrality.

They are flooding the FCC with comments about why a “closed” Internet, in which they have the power to discriminate against content for massive profits, is just fine for our country.

A diverse coalition has emerged in support of Net Neutrality and the transformative power of the Internet: including the Christian Coalition, National Rifle Association, ACLU and MoveOn.org. But this isn’t just a movement of organizations; it requires our individual voices. As young people, we cannot afford to sit back and trust others to fight for us.

As young people, we have witnessed the Internet emerge as the heart of our economy, democracy and culture. The Web offers new and vast opportunities for entrepreneurship, free speech, democratic participation and artistic expression.

From the grassroots e-support for Barack Obama, to the vibrant politics and art of the blogosphere, to the smaller victories like “Lolcats,” the Internet has added tremendous value to our society.

With Obama and the FCC Chair on board, and a bill in the House, now is the time to urge your representative to co-sponsor the Net Neutrality bill to protect our open Internet.

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Last summer, Russ Caditz-Peck served as an intern at Free Press, a public interest non-profit dedicated to media reform issues: including protecting and spreading the open Internet.

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