David Christopher of OpenMedia.org appeared on Ben Swann’s radio program to talk about net neutrality and the widely debated issue of the future of unconstrained internet. New media, as opposed to traditional print and television media owned by large corporations, heavily relies on the internet to disseminate information. Much of new media is run by small, independent companies.
The value of people being able to connect freely and quickly to one another using the internet is astounding, and Christopher said this is the basis of the recent surge in independent media. More people have the power to choose their sources of information than ever before. Christopher noted that there is a level of distrust in mainstream media due to the fact that many of the large media companies are owned by even larger telecommunication companies that provide internet service.
Christopher told Swann that on May 15th, the FCC will consider a proposal being pushed by large telecommunication companies to transfer control of internet content speed to the telecommunication companies. The FCC is discussing allowing internet service providers to charge more to content providers for faster delivery of their internet content. “The telecoms basically want to create an internet slow lane for everyone who can’t afford to pay these kind of ridiculous new fees that they’re proposing,” said Christopher. He added that this proposal will have a “terrible effect” on independent media companies.
Ben asked Christopher about this “slow lane/fast lane” FCC proposal. Christopher clarified that this proposal places burden on content producers (independent media for example) to pay more money for their content to be streamed faster. Companies that could not afford the extra cost of putting their content in the “fast lane” would be doomed to have it instead placed in the “slow lane” where transmission of the content would be much slower. Christopher explained that real net neutrality is the state of all content being treated equally; that all videos and news items have the same right, whether it comes from an independent source or a corporate-controlled source such as NBC or CNN, to travel through networks at the same speed.
“It’s simply a matter of fairness at the end of the day,” Christopher said. “It’s a matter of freedom. Because if you’re sitting at home, you want your media content from an independent outlet, you should have the right to access that content on the same basis as you would any media from the big guys.”
If the FCC proposals pass, Christopher says this will be a step backwards, making the use of internet more costly. He referred to Netflix, a large company that uses a massive amount of internet traffic. While Netflix can afford the cost of using the “fast lane”, that cost will be passed down to customers. “That’s why so many are saying this is a terrible idea, from right across the political spectrum as well, this is one of those issues that is not a left and right sort of thing,” he said, adding that the only huge push for the FCC proposal is coming from the “giant telecom conglomerates, and they’re pretty powerful.” Christopher expressed concern that these telecommunication giants have an enormous amount of influence on politics.
Swann and Christopher discussed the possibility of internet providers packaging internet content the way that cable companies create television programming bundles. Christopher said that experts agree that the internet could follow the same pattern as cable companies, where the choices of content are narrow. “It really takes all the power away from the customers, hands it over to the big telecom companies and it’s going to stifle free speech, it’s going to stifle freedom, and it’s also going to stifle innovation,” mentioning that any startup wanting to be the “next Netflix” or “next Facebook” would have a difficult time getting off the ground without equal access to all internet content.
Christoper told Swann that the goal of Open Media is to encourage people to “raise their voices” to try to ensure that politicians listen to citizens first, rather than the giant telecommunication companies. He said that protesters have been camped outside the FCC building in Washington for over a week, and their organization is “piling on the pressure” in hopes that the FCC will listen to individual citizens.
On Open Media’s website, openmedia.org/slowlane, people can add their name and Open Media will transfer the message to directly to the FCC. Christopher said these next few hours are vital to make individual voices heard by the FCC.