For years, internet and free-speech advocates have championed the concept of net neutrality, arguing that the alternative was a nightmare scenario that would allow internet service providers to offer different tiers of service based on a person's ability to pay premium pricing for the highest speeds.
Shockingly, this very scenario now appears very real, as Google and Verizon are on the cusp of announcing a deal that the New York Times reports "could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for the privilege," as the FCC, which would like to regulate the deal, is sidelined due to a court decision.
This is a very big deal. As Mike Lux rightly asserts on Huffington Post: "This is as core an issue as there is for everyone who uses the internet. Letting only the biggest companies and richest individuals have good quality service wreaks havoc with everything that is good about the internet: the freedom of speech, the ability to mobilize people, the entrepreneurial spirit that allows new tech companies to get started, the ability by charities and small business people to create low cost revenue streams."
Al Franken is one of the Senate's most impassioned champions of net neutrality. In this excerpt from a speech he delivered in Las Vegas on July 24, Franken declared that "Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time," as he explained to more than 2,000 Netroots Nation attendees that our media system is at risk everywhere we turn -- from free speech online to the growing ability of companies to own massive numbers of media outlets.
Fortunately, there are several powerful Net Neutrality champions on Capitol Hill beyond Franken, but they won't be able to turn this tide without significant grassroots pressure. Help turn it up! The non-profit media reform group Free Press has a good campaign that allows you to implore your elected reps to defend net neutrality. After that, contact Google and ask the company to honor its motto and to please not be evil. The future of the Internet, and your access to information, may depend on it.