NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 18th, 2014

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.

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