In yesterday’s State of the Union Address, President Obama had this to say on the topic of Net Neutrality:
I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.
Imagine visiting your local public library to find that your favorite section has been retrofitted with a turnstile sporting a mega-corp logo. Seems ludicrous, right? Without appropriate action from the government, this will resemble our access to the Internet, our biggest, most diverse library.
Broadband providers such as Comcast have been scratching and clawing to create an exclusive market of stratified premiums, limiting information and effectively discriminating against users on the basis of income. With public awareness of the stakes growing, there is now overwhelming support for net neutrality.
In fact, new draft legislation now under consideration addresses the issue. Sorta. The intent is to assure unfettered access to the Word Wide Web, allowing for growth and ingenuity in all segments of society. Data throttling, blocking and creating “fast lanes” for premium subscribers is expressly prohibited.
So, with public and even bi-partisan support, what could be standing in the way? Political maneuvering, of course. Written into the bill is the Republican effort to diminish the role of the FCC to regulate broadband providers. The obvious nod to the telecom industry does not decrease, but in fact heightens the need for third-party regulation.
Furthermore, the Republicans calculate that with their provision in place, the bill will be vetoed, potentially causing Obama to appear two-faced on net neutrality. However, because the FCC is empowered to make the final decision if the bill fails in Congress, it is likely that we, the average patrons of the most expansive library on the planet, will win.