Sunday, December 14, 2008

Net Neutrality - Why We Should Care

Net neutrality. You may have heard the term, but if you’re like most of us, you shut down as it sounds a tad techie. But really, the concept is both simple and scary: Internet service providers (ISPs) want to (if they aren’t already) give priority to different kinds of data traffic. That’s the simple bit. The scary? Right now when you request a web page or send or receive an e-mail, your request is treated in the same way as all others. That may change and we may see certain kinds of data get extra speed because somebody is paying a little extra to the ISP.

Several unions, with the National Union of Public and General Employees leading the way, are pressing the labour movement’s interest in this issue. “There is a generation of young workers who have grown up surfing the web,” says Len Bush, a NUPGE national representative. “Non-discriminatory access to broadband services is an important issue to people who use the Internet for almost every aspect of their economic, social and cultural life. Using the Internet is already a necessity for the union when communicating with these young workers. Net neutrality is an issue that is important to these workers, and will be necessary for the union to reach out to them."

It’s not just important, it’s now. Britain’s BBC has been threatened with having its extensive (and free) news resources relegated to the “bus lane” if it doesn’t pay a premium to Virgin Media.

If we can’t preserve net neutrality then we’ll one day be using an Internet where those who can pay will get their information out there, while those who can’t (unions, workers and our allies) won’t. In other words, the Internet will be as union-unfriendly as today’s newspapers are. It’s as simple as that.

The Coalition is where to go to join the fight for equal access. Get your union onboard before it’s too late.

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