Thursday, May 01, 2008

ACLU blog presents testimony on Network Neutrality


The ACLU “Free Speech” blog available on its COPA weblink has a large entry dated April 23, 2008 “No Corporate Gatekeepers for the Net”, link here. There is a PDF file of notes on a Hearing on “Net Neutrality and Free Speech on the Net,” before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Task Force on Competition Policy and Antitrust Laws, testimony by Caroline Frederickson, Director, Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union. The link is here.
She also refers to an FCC Policy Statement from 2005 “New Principles Preserve and Promote the Open and Interconnected Nature of the Public Internet (link here); with later versions of adobe Acrobat, it is possible to follow embedded hyperlinks directly). Toward the end, Frederickson remarks that “Internet discrimination by ISPs is on the rise, and will only increase as Americans rely on the broadband services that they provide.”

The April ACLU blog entry refers to an earlier report of Comcast’s “behavior” as an example of what can happen in a world without legislated Net Neutrality, here.

The blog mentions an interesting incident in San Francisco of apparent government discrimination against protestors representing the interests of Tibetan independence, in this podcast, MP3 link here.

What does all this mean? Jonathan Zittrain, as I noted in the previous post, is more concerned about the loss of generativity in the mechanics of delivery of content than with discrimination concerning the content itself. A lot of this has to do with the way broadband and wireless services are made available in new areas, and with ways they can be secured for safe use by ordinary citizens in apartments, motels when traveling on business, shopping malls, and the like, an issue that I just took up on my Internet safety blog (see Blogger Profile). The more competition there is, the less the need for direct regulation, or, perhaps that is to say, some of the regulation would have to do with mergers and buyouts that could eliminate competition. The other issue may be social and even harder to encapsulate: society is starting to become unnerved by some speech by individuals, as in blogs and social networking sites, when it made without any sense of accountability to others.

The ACLU blog materials and references seem compelling -- but how balanced are they?

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