Net neutrality was the topic at hand at a League of Women Voters meeting held Wednesday, October 15, at the Louise Lowry Davis Center. The meeting ultimately focused on the need for Congress to protect equal access to the Internet.
Santa Barbara resident and Internet technologist Fred Baker gave a presentation in which he discussed the technology behind the issue and why consumers should be aware of it. “Consumers tend to think that when they [use] the Internet : they can have access to whatever they want,” he said, “but neutrality [is] about money.”
According to a document titled “Internet Neutrality Taskforce” given as a handout at the meeting, the criteria for Internet neutrality includes “equal access to all internet content, applications and services : in a non-discriminatory manner.” Filtering was discussed as an instrument that has the capacity to deny users access to certain applications as well as block them in search engines. Essentially, filtered use of the Internet would prevent people from being able to access online content freely. This can have both good and bad implications. Baker explained filtering using the analogy of a hammer: “[A hammer] can be used to hammer in a nail or smash someone’s head in. It can be used for good or for evil. A filter is the same thing. It can be used for good or for evil.”
The document also detailed about how cable and telephone companies are arguing that major search engines like Google are preventative applications because they act as a gateway to Internet access, ultimately standing between the user and his or her destination. “Internet neutrality is a discussion between service providers and content providers and whether the content should be allowed,” Baker explained. “The role of government should be to ensure that everyone plays nicely, not controlling contracts between service providers.”
While Baker’s presentation was mainly focused on the technical aspect of the Internet and how neutrality can be compromised with null routes and disallowing the existence of pathways, Linda Philips, the League’s president, had her own interpretation about fair Internet access. “[Net neutrality] is all related to freedom of information and freedom of speech,” she said. “Classifying information is an Internet neutrality issue, to me.”
“Do you really want censorship on the Internet? That is something the majority should be asking,” Baker noted.
For more information on the subject of net neutrality, check out Save the Internet, a coalition of people advocating equal information access.