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Why we need net neutrality

ISPsThe recent Ofcom report that many internet service providers in the UK are advertising higher broadband speeds than they’re actually delivering is another blow to democracy, writes Jay Baker.

I know what you might be thinking: “Come on dude, what the heck does an internet connection have to do with democracy?”

Well, it has a lot to do with it: access to information, is absolutely crucial for progressive change, and downloaders – as internet users, as consumers and as citizens – are being screwed by this misleading PR.

This is like a removal company promising in ads that it’ll have you move home within hours, and then actually delivering your belongings a few days later – before charging you the same rate, and continuing its outlandish advertising campaign claims.

But again, the most important part about it is its stifling of information for people, many of whom rely upon the web for their source of information – much of which is unregulated and uncontrolled by the media moguls and vested interests.

Wikileaks is a prime example of this, having been praised on my blog just weeks before the site hit headlines across the world for exposing files on the forces in Afghanistan and the civilian deaths they’ve caused there.

But this latest exposé is just the first shot in what I expect will be a long war between the above-mentioned vested interests and we the people.

Because while Ofcom might prompt the ISPs to realign themselves and rectify the shocking disparity between their claims and their actual delivery, another threat still looms on the horizon: with such an Ofcom-prompted revamp of the ISPs’ codes of conduct soon the only difference between them will be the speed at which their knees hit the floor when the corporations offer them rewards for accelerating access to their websites.

Oh yeah, you’d better believe it: with the ISPs searching for financial means to keep up with the demand in technology-based information, they’ll be using this as an excuse to create faster lanes on the information superhighway for internet traffic that’s headed to corporate sites.

In plain English, that means that if you’re unwilling to pay, you’d arrive at this blog much slower than had you typed in, say, The big guys – the bad guys – are Dennis Hopper and you’re Keanu Reeves.

So, if you think this Ofcom report is about to accelerate your ability to load up pages for blogs like mine, you might want to prepare yourselves for the imminent war for net neutrality.

It’s already been raging in my old stomping grounds of North America, but when I returned to Britain, no one was talking about the threat of these throttlers. We’d better start the discussion, here, now.

The internet has been the last sacred ground of information for the people; a free land where we refugees of Rupert Murdoch’s media have sought asylum to exchange ideas, educate, diplomatically debate, and democratically organise for progressive movements. Now, even this is under threat.

As founder of the social enterprise SilenceBreaker Media, I – along with the other directors of the board – have discussed a campaign for net neutrality. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you’d like to offer ideas or get involved, contact me.

Jay Baker is Jay Baker is a British media activist hailing from the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire. He has almost 10 years of experience as a professional documentarian, writer, youth worker, social justice campaigner, and social entrepreneur in Britain and North America. He is the director/producer of the feature-length film Escape from Doncatraz and author of Pissing in the Mainstream.

Jay founded the ground-breaking “green” media company, SilenceBreakers, a social enterprise that works with partners to re-utilise social media materials for community projects.

Jay has also written for independent newspaper The Mule, the award-winning zine La Bouche, Broad Left Blogging, The News Portal, and has been published numerous times in The Blog Paper. He is currently working on his next film, Return to Doncatraz, set for release in 2012.



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