Siders Says: Preserve the Internet and save the Freedom of speech

By Neil Siders

The current policies and use of the internet are the best representation of John Milton’s market place of ideas, as citizens, journalists and political leaders have taken to the digital medium to express ideas on any given subject.
Since Milton proposed the theory of allowing the freedom of speech without the possibility of repercussion for false information, under the premise that the truth will rise to the top, many different institutions, ranging from the press to the advent of talk radio and broadcast news, have claimed to represent the idea. But only the internet has so completely encompassed the principles behind the market place of ideas.
Radio, television and print media have many restrictions that prevent them from really allowing the presentation of all ideas, ranging from time and space concerns to the monetary control possessed by companion advertising with these established media.
Personal conversation is limited in its effectiveness in mass communicating an idea to the general public, so while the freedom may be present, “the market place,” is not.
Then along came the internet with chat rooms, public forums and blog sites, and the true market place of ideas started to take shape. The advent of cheap template based web design allowed the true market place of ideas to spread its wings.
In middle Tennessee alone, organizations such as Tennesseans Against Forced Annexation (TAFA), Sumner County’s Strong Schools non-profit, and Sumner United for Responsible Government (SURG), have burst on the scenes having dramatic impacts on the creation of legislation, and the elections of local candidates, utilizing the freedom of speech and ability to mass communicate that the internet provides.
Each of these organizations has taken to Facebook, chat rooms, and utilized their own website to spread their message though the use of comments, documents, video posting, and the networking abilities provided to them by various internet platforms to effect very real change in their communities.
Now, that could all be at risk.

Net Neutrality

The topic of Net Neutrality did not receive much attention since John Oliver’s plea to internet commenters on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” led to commenters shutting down the Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) servers.
But what is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the guiding principle of internet communication, based on the theory that the internet can not be privately owned or controlled. Net Neutrality requires that internet service providers can not discriminate or block application, sites, or content that flows over their net works.
In simpler terms, an internet service provider can not pick and choose what goes over the internet for any reason, whether that reason is content related or monetarily motivated.
In 2010 the FCC tried to establish rules that would permanently preserve Net Neutrality in the creation of Open Internet Order.
In January 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington D.C. struck down the law following a lawsuit by internet and phone giant Verizon. The court did not rule the Law itself was unjust, but simply the frame work of rules the FCC had created to enforce the implementation of the rule did not fall within the scope of their duties.
While this policy of Net Neutrality has created some of the internet’s darker places, it has also ensured every citizen has the ability to promote their own ideas, or organization’s agenda without serious financial costs or the risk of discrimination against their ability to promote a controversial idea.
With companies like Comcast spending record amounts of money lobbying Washington D.C. to change FCC regulations, allowing for the end of Net Neutrality.

The Repercussion

If the powers that be cave into super lobbying tactics of these massive internet providers, promoting ideas may again return to the realm of only allowing big money organizations to promote ideas.
The removal of Net Neutrality would allow internet services providers to create a two tier system, forcing companies such as Google and Netfilx to pay big price tags to keep their ability to access broadband communication capabilities.
High speed broad band is what allows websites to stream video, post large documents, or interactive files.
The second tier or free tier would have slower board band capabilities, limiting smaller companies, organizations and citizens’ abilities to post or stream videos, along with limiting the document size a non tier website can post.
While on the surface this may seem like a capitalist principle, it is anything but an honest way for these mega internet providers to make a buck.
Not one of the internet service providers wanting to charge the massive amount of money for access to this communication networks is responsible for the creation of the very network they hope to control.
The earliest form of networked computer communications is a credit to the US military, with the advent of the defense network in the 50’s. Innovations that have allowed this basic version of the internet to become the world shrinking communication network that we have all come to love and know, have seen contributions from countless people and organizations across the world.
That is a bit like someone building a door at the entrance to a public park, and charging $200 a head to walk through the door.
In addition to these companies’ lack of ownership, internet service providers can use this principle and monetary demands to crush up and coming internet businesses to protect their larger business partners. Thus, removing Internet Neutrality would discharge the capitalist principles of a free market in favor of the total control of a few well established internet powers.

Local Fallout

On a local level, the massive amount of internet services providers could charge for tier 1 broadband, could prevent an organization such as TAFA from unloading large documents and pictures such as lengthy PDF’s of legislation, due to slow download and upload speeds and the frustration of the general public that has become accustomed to instant access to information.
Strong Schools could not upload videos, or high resolution pictures, and streaming live videos of meetings would be impossible, along with dealing with the same document problems as TAFA.
SURG would have the same limitations as Strong Schools as they struggle with videos, documents, and even sound clips.
Any citizen that has become involved with these organizations must ask themselves, would they be involved in the cause if it was not for these organizations’ internet presence.
In addition to the dramatic effect on citizens and political organizations, small business would struggle with their ability to create dynamic sites used to draw customers to their products.
Included in many of these small businesses will be local news organizations. More and more media organizations are turning to the internet for instant delivery of news to the public, ranging from the Broadcast companies updating stories, to almost every local newspaper utilizing an online version of their paper.
While some of these companies are part of larger organizations that can afford to pay for the cost of tier 1 broadband, many of these companies are locally owned and would be left in the cold, forced to severely limit the content they present on the internet. Local websites, blogs and specialty news sites would be practically limited to text only files to avoid excruciatingly slow upload and download speeds. Citizens will turn to faster sites owned by larger organizations for their news effectively driving the death nail into locally owned media.
These dramatic repercussions would severely limit the environment of free speech that the current form of internet has created and close the market place of ideas.

Editors note: My personal plea to each of you

Citizens of Sumner County and Middle Tennessee, I have seen what you are capable of when you take up a cause. I have seen the relentless pursuit of education reform, the ever vigilant goal of finding the truth, and the unending defense of the citizens’ right to decide.
I am simply asking each of your to use your skills to ensure these changes are never made, so that you may continue your efforts to promote your goals.
Let your government know how much you enjoy the free speech, mass communication, and enterprise opportunities that Net Neutrality has provided you.
For more information on the subject of Net Neutrality, please visit
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