I have been online since 1986. That was the year the Freedom of Information Act and a company called Compuserve made online communication affordable and accessible to Americans and created the foundation for what the world know now knows as The Internet. As I worked to expand the family business into international markets, I experienced first hand how the Internet improved communications, made trade more affordable, and allowed innovative companies to leverage this power to build relationships and to bring products to market faster and more cheaply than ever before.
When I managed a web firm at the turn of the century, I helped over a hundred small businesses and non-profit organizations expand past their brick and mortar confines to grow and expand in ways that used to be impossible to imagine. For 31 years, I have watched the free and open Internet grow from a small, niche curiosity to a major catalyst for growth and competition across the globe. The free and open Internet has created thousands of new companies, millions of well-paying jobs, and today accounts for over 7% of our country’s total GNP.
Unfortunately, corporations that have profited from the technology subsidized by US taxpayers want more money and more control. Whether it is ISP’s attempting to block access to web sites that post negative comments about their services, or companies that blackmail content providers like Netflix by threatening to throttle bandwidth speeds unless a high premium was paid, the internet as we know it is at risk of turning into a stagnant, . If Net Neutrality is a new topic to you, you might be surprised that many of us have been fighting for more than decade to protect your 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of information.
For me, the impact of Congress on my daily life came when Dennis Ross co-sponsored SOPA, a hollywood-sponsored bill that would have given corporations unchecked censorship of the Internet. Not only was this an attempt to impede individuals’ First Amendment Rights, it was a direct assault on my job, economic growth in my community, and employment opportunities for my students. I looked into Ross’ campaign to discover a huge part of his first Congressional campaign funds came directly from the entertainment industry. It was then that I realized my representative in Congress would sell out me, my children, my students, and my entire community for a campaign contribution. (*Although Ross originally co-sponsored SOPA on 10/26/2011, after the bill stalled amid grassroots protests and public outcry, he eventually removed his name as a co-sponsor on 01/23/2012.)
Since that time, Ross has been influential in derailing efforts to protect Net Neutrality in the US House (2014, 2015) which led to Obama’s reclassification of the Internet as a public utility. Ross and fellow Tea Party Republicans have also passed a number of corporate friendly, anti-consumer bills which have weakened security requirements for ISP’s and authorized the collecting and selling of individuals’ personal browsing history and app usage.
In order to reclaim the Internet, its potential for increased innovation, and its economic potential, we need to:
- Support legislation prohibiting ISP’s from collecting or selling our online and app usage history;
- Support legislation that prohibits any ISP who charges for Internet connectivity or online data transfer, either independently or as part of a communications bundle (Cel, cable, or satellite), to discriminate between legal content providers or to charge surcharges to legal content providers for access to their networks and customers;
- Not support any further government subsidies of telecommunications providers until the $400 billion in unfinished telecommunications contracts have either been completed or the investment has been returned to the US taxpayers;
- Support legislation to allow local communities to purchase and maintain their own public networks;
- Vote for candidates who are supportive of the expansion of First Amendment Rights, want to protect and promote economic growth, are staunch advocates for consumer rights, and will never sell out your interest in exchange for political favors and campaign contributions.