In the wake of the recent terror plot, foiled by law enforcement in the United Kingdom, it is even more critical that we discuss and preserve Network Neutrality on the Internet. Those who are pushing against net neutrality in Congress aren't simply being lapdogs of the big cable and phone companies, they are literally endangering the national security and the essential freedoms of the American people.
Let's discuss a little about what national security has to do with net neutrality. Net neutrality is a simple concept. It says that once you pay for your Internet traffic (aka bandwidth), you can use that as you see fit, within the law. You want to make VoIP calls over the Internet? Go ahead. Want to visit any website you want? It's your business. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn't get to tell you how you can and cannot use the bandwidth you already paid for. But this very simple concept is what stands between a censored Internet and a free one (free as in free speech, not free candy). The first step to protecting our national security is telling the truth to the American people. The greatest guarantor of the security of a free state is not a well regulated militia, but an informed citizenry. An informed citizenry that does not live under censorship from its government or its corporations.
Why is an informed citizenry so critical to our national security? Politics. Yes, I mentioned national security and politics in the same breath. There are (in a greatly simplified way) two sets political philosophies: one that believes that protecting its own power is the ultimate goal and that masses should only have the information that will help keep them in power, and another that acts on evidence and believes that the security of our nation is something greater than a tool to retain political power. The followers of the second philosophy believes it is the job of our national leaders to protect both our security and our way of life. They tend to make decisions based on evidence, whereas the first group tends to sell out the security of the American people in order to retain political power. Their ideology and power driven philosophy is displayed in the spectacular failures of American foreign policy from the Vietnam War to 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq to North Korean nuclear weapons. On the flip side, evidence based foreign policy of this country are in proud display in today's Germany, a hero's welcome for President Clinton in Kosovo, the foiling of terror plots during the millanium celebrations, the bloodless ending of the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 70's and the ending of the Cuban Missile crisis without anhiliation of at least half the world.
In a democracy like ours, the people must make a choice between these two battling philosophies with regards to our national security. And in order to do so, they must be able to obtain and discuss information freely - without the veil of government or corporate secrecy. That's what net neutrality is all about. It is not a surprise that people like Sen. Ted "Tubes" Stevens, Republican of Alaska, opposes net neutrality. Control of information through corporate and government means is one way his party and his philosophy can retain power. That becomes more difficult by the day with a free (again, as in free speech, not as in free candy) and thriving Internet where ordinary people can get information, talk to others and act to change the course of their country. Folks, it is not an accident that conservatives and Republicans oppose net neutrality for the most part while liberals and Democrats are coming out in support of it (have a look at this declared list of Senators and you'll see what I mean). It fits the conservative mindset to control the free flow of information (you know, the people can't be trusted with all this info), and it fits the liberal mindset to preserve that same free flow. We liberals believe that it is critical to preserve freedom on the Internet; conservatives believe (rightly) that this freedom is a threat to their stranglehold on power. But if we are to protect the national security of the American people, we must have political leadership willing to enact a reality based foreign policy focused on making more friends in the world, investing in human intelligence, and the promotion of freedom and economic opportunity around the world. In order for people to choose that leadership, we must preserve an Internet free of censorship. In order to keep the Internet free, we must enact Net Neutrality.