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LIVE from Detroit: Why Net Neutrality is a Social Justice Issue

This panel is moderated by Marissa Valeri who is Common Cause’s digital strategies manager. Panelists include Kim Lehmkuhl, Lauren Wilson, and Andi Zeisler.

From the panel description:

Earlier this year, a court overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) common sense net neutrality rules, which guaranteed the right of users to connect to the websites, blogs, and social platforms of their choice. Now, corporate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are free to block anything online, for practically any reason at all. So there’s nothing stopping your ISPs from censoring your access to the blogs and organizing tools you rely on every day. Each organization represented on the panel organized to restore net neutrality, culminating in the delivery of 1.1 million signatures to the Federal Communications Commission in January.

The battle for Net Neutrality faces many obstacles. Once issue is getting the public to understand what Net Neutrality means. Essentially it means equal access to content, which prohibits providers for giving some sites the fast lane and other sites the slow lane according to who pays to be on the fast lane.

Big telecom companies always find it cheaper to hire lobbyists that work to improve the bottom line at the expense of Net Neutrality. To help fight this issue one should blog about it, write editorials, support candidates that support Net Neutrality, and push to get the right people on the FCC who are knowledgeable and supportive of Net Neutrality.

One member of the audience brought up the issue of potential content filtering using deep packet inspection. It seemed that the panelists didn’t understand what he was referring to. Deep packet inspection is the process of opening the chunks of data that are traveling over the internet and inspecting the data contents. This is a technology that is used for legitimate purposes such as load balancing. However, it could potentially be used by ISPs to slow down or block content, which would certainly be a Net Neutrality issue.

Another from the audience brought up an issue related to deep packet filtering and how it would affect private networks, particularly VPNs. VPN traffic is encrypted which would prevent deep packet inspection, so does this mean VPN traffic would always be put in the slow lane? Certainly a valid question if Net Neutrality is lost.

Another audience member asked the panelists about how the proposed trade agreements would impact Net Neutrality and what their position is on it. The panelists responded that they do not have a position on that yet and eluded to a battle that they are having internally regarding that issue.