“On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather” (Barlow 1996).
This opening line of John Perry Barlow’s 1996 work, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” encapsulates his view on the freedom of the Internet. That is, Governments have no right to control a space that is completely free. Barlow describes cyberspace as a place without “privilege or prejudice”, a place free of fear as thoughts can be expressed liberally (1996).
Ahead of its time, Barlow’s writing projected the current issue of net neutrality. On 15th May 2014, America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an open commission meeting to discuss the introduction of open Internet rules. Following the idea of net neutrality, content providers would have the ability to pay for faster services. But what happens to those that can’t afford these high prices? Companies such as Netflix and Facebook are in favour of net neutrality as they have the funds to come out on top.
The following video by the New York Times explains the functioning of net neutrality, looking at both sides of the argument. Speaking to media columnist David Carr, he makes the point that if you are receiving one message fast and another slow, it is obvious which one will be heard (2014).
So what does net neutrality mean for us as Internet users? If companies have to pay to speed up their services, they might potentially begin charging consumers to cover the costs. While various video-streaming services may become more reliable, there will eventually be fewer services available. Smaller providers may shut down, as they cannot afford to keep up with larger providers.
With a lot of this information being foreign to many, Internet users have come together to create ‘The Net Neutrality Teaching Kit’. The site provides various links to videos and articles to explain net neutrality and assessments to test your knowledge and understanding. While you may not know where you stand in this debate yet, it is important for us to be aware of this issue. It is our responsibility to “discover, create and take action around Net Neutrality” (Braybrooke & Sansing 2014).
Barlow, J.P. (1996) A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, <https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html>.
Braybrooke K., Sansing C. 2014, Net Neutrality Teaching Kit, Makes.org, viewed 17 August 2014, <https://keyboardkat.makes.org/thimble/LTQzNjIwNzM2MA==/net-neutrality-teaching-kit>.
Wyatt, E. 2014, ‘F.C.C. Backs Opening Net Neutrality Rules for Debate’, The New York Times, 15 May, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/technology/fcc-road-map-to-net-neutrality.html?_r=0>.