Practical Net Neutrality

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It’s been a while since I did anything on Net neutrality, but I came across a story about Pearl Jam this morning that made my stomach turn:

After concluding our Sunday night show at Lollapalooza, fans informed us that portions of that performance were missing and may have been censored by AT&T during the “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast.

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.

Yikes! This takes the old problem to a whole new level. Just as a refresher, here’s the basic issue with letting telecoms dictate content:

Here’s a real world example that shows how this would work. Let’s say you call Joe’s Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you’ll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That’s not fair, right? You called Joe’s and want some Joe’s pizza. Well, that’s how some telecommunications executives want the Internet to operate, with some Web sites easier to access than others. For them, this would be a money-making regime.

That’s Craig Newman, founder of Craigslist, explaining why Net neutrality is a good thing. Like I said, the Pearl Jam situation is a whole new problem:

During the performance of “Daughter” the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” but were cut from the webcast:

  • “George Bush, leave this world alone.” (the second time it was sung); and
  • “George Bush find yourself another home.”

This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.

Telecom companies are already pushing for the ability to make you wait longer to visit sites that haven’t formed a strategic partnership with those telecoms. But being able to dictate what content is shown over their networks is downright scary.

Take it to the logical end: you’re ISP/phone company decides that it will block content that matches certain keyword combinations (like Net neutrality), or, worse, decides that a site like mine doesn’t meet certain standards (or thinks I’m un-American). Well, there it is: they pull the plug and block your access to my site. And there might not be anything you or I could do about it!

Yeah, you might say that’s an extreme scenario, but look what we’ve just seen: an AT&T content moderator “accidentally” trimmed a Pearl Jam performance, and the only things cut were lyrics about George Bush!

(h/t to Kagro X at DailyKos for the link)