Sunday, June 18, 2006

Net Neutrality

I'll admit, I haven't been paying as much attention to this issue as I should, but the more I read about it, the most frightened I get. Take note - this is not one of those "Congress is going to make you buy a stamp for email!" scams. This is real, folks. And if the good Canadians at Mocking Music can show this type of concern over an American law, so should we.

I can't put this any better, so I'll let Mocking Music's words speak for themselves:
Those of you who follow the news should be well aware of the ongoing debate that has surrounded network neutrality in the United States. You may not be aware, however, of the debate's impact on independent music and blogs (especially those, unlike ours, that are completely independent).

Since its inception the Internet has functioned on a principle called network neutrality. In short, individuals are given full access to any website (more or less) without any interference from their Internet providers. This concept has made the Internet the most democratic medium in all of human history. Unlike television or radio there are no governing bodies to regulate content and restrict individuals' freedom to publish and distribute that content. Restrictions do exist but they are tied to laws that oversee copyright protection and illegal activities.

Cable and phone companies have recently lobbied the US Congress to forgo the preservation of network neutrality. If they get their way the Internet will move in the same direction as television and radio. Multi-million dollar deals will restrict people's access to independent content (or even that of competing multinationals). Let's say that your Internet provider cuts a deal with company X -- that company's online content will run great on your computer -- company Y, however, which has similar (i.e. competing) content may not be accessible at all.

The videos below further explain the consequences what can be called Internet discrimination. The first offers a more informative perspective while the second looks at the issue from a humorous stance.

Video 1
Video 2

Now, what does all this have to do with music? Well, the answer is quite simple. It is no secret that indie music has benefited tremendously from the Internet. Websites, like this one, have given independent artists a platform in which to promote and distribute their music. Many artists have achieved success levels that were previously impossible without major label support. Personally, I can say that without the Internet I would likely have to listen to the shit factory that is Top 40 radio. I think it's safe to say that without the far-reaching platform provided by the Internet, independent music would be effectively doomed. It would become increasingly difficult for indie artists to reach an audience and build a fan base.

Some of you may be saying to yourselves: "Well, I'm not American, why should I care?" Like it or not, the United States happens to be the world's sole superpower and tends to have a strong influence in these matters. If the US scraps network neutrality other countries will surely follow suite. There are several things the average person can do to ensure the Internet's free and democratic exchange of information.

First, if you have a blog write something about the subject and do all you can to get the word out. Even without a blog you can still tell all your friends and spam random message boards with this information.

Second, if you happen to be an American citizen visit the Save the Internet campaign's website. Once there you can sign a petition and send an e-mail to your representative in Congress.

Third, you can add Save the Internet to your MySpace. It's one small step to raise awareness.
If you want to click through to the links mentioned in this piece, go check out the original at Mocking Music.

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