Net neutrality: how much is at stake?

Net neutrality is one of the main paradigms
in order to measure new forms of inequality.

I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts about current times with friends, online and in real life. I think that our age is the epicenter of the Information Revolution: an event the size not less than that of Industrial revolutions that measured the stride towards new models of society in the past.
Until now social differences were mainly determined by the gap between the redistribution of resources and money, and therefore power. Today, however, we have to deal with another decisive factor: access to information.
There are therefore two forms of poverty in the world:
A classic one, due to an ever-widening gap between those who hold most of the economic resources on the planet (fewer people) and those who increasingly live in a state of precariousness and health
The new one depends instead on the capability to get free access to information
All this depends on the fact that Information Revolution has radically changed worldwide the process of consumption: we have passed suddenly from a society in which were consumed material goods to one where the main consumption has moved on intangible assets.
What makes it even more dramatic is that these two kinds of poverty often overlap: it is clear that whoever does not have the economic power or live in states of failure or not completed development will have difficulty accessing to resources that allow the fruition and exchange of informal goods.
Two levels of the digital divide, therefore: one linked to indigence, another tied to a generation gap due to the advent of new technologies. A senior citizen living in poverty in an underdeveloped country, paradoxically will be poorer than a young man who lives in the same state of poverty but in a nation where he can access at low cost to the information on the Web.
This is the scenario in which we have to reassess the importance of net neutrality.
The various government entities struggle for a long time in an attempt to regulate this almost founding right of the Internet, as happened recently, for example, for the European Union.
The concept of net neutrality is well explained by what has been written already in 2006 by two great communication experts such as Lawrence Lessig and Robert McChesney in this article.
What is it, to explain it in the simplest way possible? Of one of most important issues that affect the future of the Internet: online data must circulate freely, whatever their source, their destination and their contents. Being a major of global communications (Facebook, Google, Yahoo) or a small blog like this one you are reading should not make any difference in a world where the Internet is truly democratic. Each site, large or small, popular or not, should receive the same treatment from the network.
This fact is so felt, especially in nations within which everyday life is now inextricably linked to the Internet such as the United States, to be expected that many users would change providers if they did not guarantee the same access to the production and use of resources in the network . Some users indeed would be willing to give up their online presence, as explained by this American study.
Recent acquisitions, such as Time Warner by Comcast, are raising the issue in an important way.
The use of video content in the world is shifting ever more rapidly from the old distribution over the air to the Internet.
The growing need by these large groups for concentration of lines ever more powerful and dedicated undermines the concept of net neutrality.
The case is complex. How important is it for the freedom of all, and not to exacerbate the scenario that I drew telling of the Information Revolution in progress, that these monopolies do not dictate the rules in the future imposing different treatment by the provider?

On the one hand, governments like that of Barack Obama in the United States, are trying to limit the dominance of the majors; on the other we witness to complaints from providers who say that the most important giants such as Google and Netflix should have the opportunity to buy preferential lines just to defend the possibility of equal access to information.

It is the old story of the cat chasing its tail. If it is true that it is vital gain access to the most important sources of information online – such as those mentioned above – it is equally true that grant them the competitive advantages prevents new enterprises appearance on the international scene. This might block a nascent development, new competitive dynamics – in this way locking the future of the Internet.

How much and how national laws, reduced in the possibility of clearly affect global phenomena, may actually stem the slide of the rights of users?

I don’t have precise answers on the situation but I think it is important to raise these issues at the highest level and talk about it with friends with whom I share every day my online presence.

The perception of the problem helps to build together a world view that protects us, to understand what new rights we have to defend.

Let’s keep our eyes wide open!
article by Leonardo Vannucci (

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