In little over a decade, the Internet has changed life dramatically. This change has been noticed in several aspects of life, such as paying bills, communicating and sending e-mail, political organising, finding work and networking, and even dating and sex. So great is its impact that the changes it brought have been compared to the Industrial Revolution. The most notable aspect of the Internet, is the freedom of Net users to access a great deal of information from a variety of sources, and has provided people with greater means to spread their ideas. This fundamental foundation is under attack.
Currently, the basic idea behind the Internet is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) (telephone and cable companies) are not supposed to restrict consumer access to particular websites. It's called Net Neutrality. Right now in the United States, the ISPs are lobbying to change that. They want to charge websites a fee to load up more quickly on that browser. Naturally, this favours those with more money over those without, but the potential impacts are widespread, and go beyond that. Service providers would be able to discriminate against websites based on political views. For example, last year during the strike at Telus, the company blocked customers from viewing a webstie set up by the union
. Other possible impacts
range from ISPs charging to have certain search engines load faster on consumer's browsers than others, or selecting which online banking services consumers will have to choose from.
This is being proposed because the impact of the Internet in empowering citizens has not gone unnoticed. Examples of the Internet playing a major role in policital events include Howard Dean's campaign to become the 2004 Democratic candidate to run for the Presidency
and exposing the truth about some documents upon which a story about George Bush's military service by Dan Rather were based
. It's unsurprising that the powerful ISPs and the interests they represent wish to control, if not outright halt, this kind of discourse. The implications are so widespread that several diverse groups across the political spectrum, such as MoveOn.org
and the Christian Coalition
, as well as citizen's groups and companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo, have joined forces to protect Net Neutrality
, and several Democrat and Republican legislators are onside on this issue. In Canada, Internet regulation falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Comission
, and Bev Oda
is the Minister whose portfolio covers this issue. Michael Geist
has also written a great deal about the Canadian aspects of this issue.
The Internet is the last bastion of free expression, and it is important that this be preserved.