Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Huffing and puffing

Do you remember, boys and girls, when Professor Banaian got all testy about someone (well, it was Charlie at Across the Great Divide) questioning whether ISPs should be permitted to censor messages? The King drew himself up and thundered "They are private businesses!" Spot commented on Charlie and the King's discussion in ISPs as utilities. The issue of censorship of messages on what amount to common carriers is a very real one. Here's another example:

On the face of it, last week’s brouhaha over Verizon’s censorship of NARAL appears to be the result of a simple corporate bungle, an “isolated incident” caused by a misinterpretation of “a dusty internal policy,” as corporate spokespeople put it. But behind this corporate snafu is an unhappy marriage of two much larger issues.

Thousands grew outraged last week when Verizon threatened to censor their private communications. Expert Lea Shaver of Yale Law School’s Information Society Project reports that advocates of legislation designed to prevent censorship on the net have been concerned about the censorship potential of Verizon’s internal policies for some time but were dismissed as paranoid. Verizon is also a principal sponsor of the key corporate interest group opposing such legislation.

The King is so busy worshipping at the altar of his tin god "the market" that he is blissfully unaware of the erosion of his political freedoms, including especially freedom of speech. Pity.

Related is the whole issue of 'net neutrality:

Common Cause firmly believes in net neutrality -- the  principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they want, post their own content, and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service providers (ISPs).

Net neutrality is the reason this democratic medium has grown exponentially, fueled innovation and altered how we communicate.  We must make certain that for-profit interests do not destroy the democratic culture of the web.

When a private company can acquire right of way, a license to use public airwaves or bandwidth, or some other right granted by the government, it is not merely a "private business" any longer. It has public responsibilities for the authority granted to it. This is a proposition so simple that only an economics professor doesn't seem to understand it.

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