'Sweat Neutrality' Exercising Net Neutrality's First Amendment Right
Who's sweating Net Neutrality? Most of us would point to the little guy, the billions of netizens who believe the World Wide Web should remain free and equitable to all. Unfortunately, however, they are not the only ones who feel they have a First Amendment claim. There's also the big guys who are balking about their alleged loss of civil liberties -- and like the big bully in the school yard, they're shouting down all those who get in their way -- while not hardly breaking a sweat.
Verizon protecting it's First Amendment's Rights?Top Internet service providers like Verizon have actually claimed it's their constitutional right to pick and choose how it offers "edge services" like Netflix, YouTube and news publishing sites to its customers.
Opposing Verizon's claim, the FCC on January 16, 2013 proclaimed that the telecom company didn't have a legitimate First Amendment argument, "because Internet access providers do not engage in speech -- they transport the speech of others, as a messenger delivers documents containing speech, (and) unlike cable systems, newspapers, and other curated media, broadband providers do not exercise editorial discretion."
The central premise behind network neutrality is that Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T should allow online publishers to provide web-based services to consumers equally, and without favoring or blocking products or websites.
As far as how it affects consumers, it's been believed up to now that the company that provides you with Internet service shouldn't be given permission to assess you extra fees to see your Twitter or Facebook accounts, or charge online services like Google or The New York Times, when we view their websites.
"Fast Lane"Modifying their previous rulings, in a 3-2 vote this past week the FCC reversed their previous position somewhat and approved a plan submitted by Chairman Tom Wheeler allowing "paid prioritization," a proposal that is being condemned by Net Neutrality supporters. Literally switching over to what is now being called a "fast lane" access route -- this would now give Internet service providers like Verizon the opportunity to charge content companies extra for higher priority end users. As noted by Chris Moran in his Consumerist report, while "the proposal as passed by the commission does not explicitly throw open the door for ISPs to start charging for fast lanes, it doesn’t throw a deadbolt on that door either.
Who can help us Sweat this Big Stuff?So, it appears that fighting these schoolyard bullies just got a little tougher, since it seems our authority figures are turning a blind-eye to the harm they are inflicting.
As we look for influential supporters to help the common man's cause -- while pundits seem to be divided along partisan lines -- there is one voice that became very vocal this past week in our defense. So vocal, in fact, it shook the FCC's servers to their core.
Following in the satirist footsteps of Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, John Oliver, the former Daily Show correspondent and now host of HBO's 'Last Week Tonight,' took up the gauntlet to fight the good fight - with a hilarious delivery to boot.
In finally bringing this under-reported issue to light, Oliver single-handedly was able to motivate his viewers to flood the FCC's servers with 45,000 comments and over 300,000 emails. To put these numbers in context, the next highest number of formal comments on any other FCC issue prior was just under 2000.
Ironically -- probably because the FCC doesn't watch the show on a regular basis -- it initially did not know who was the culprit that ignited the flame-war on their website, as evidenced by these two tweets---->
Going forward, sweating Net Neutrality is probably going to get worse before it gets better. But we need more Olivers to raise their angry voices above the din of apathy -- that's allowed the FCC to not only change horses in midstream -- but to truly encroach upon our First Amendment right.
Perhaps, as Oliver has satirized, the moniker "Net Neutrality" may be too boring a term to stir the passions of those of us who aren't paying attention. Perhaps "Sweat Neutrality" is a better way to describe what's happening here. If you agree readers, let's see if we can collectively make the hashtag #SweatNeutrality gain some traction as a result? If you are game, we can then put up a Google Alert for that keyword so we can track if this approach can possibly build some grassroot's momentum. What do you think? It's worth a little sweat-equity, don't you think?