Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
[Manifesto] Call for an Open and Fair Internet
I grew up in an us-and-them world. Disconnected. Uninformed. Fearful. Stationed on an Army base in Germany, hearing about how “they” (the Russians) wanted to take away “our way of life”.
A world that I viscerally experienced when, as a kid, I crossed The Wall – from West to East Berlin. Going from technicolor to shades of gray. Yet intuitively feeling that we were more alike than different. Today, I have been fortunate to visit many countries, including Russia twice, and develop many friendships across the globe. Friendships that we’re able to maintain because of the Internet.
I’m grateful for that experience – to have seen our world both before the Internet and after the Internet. It has given me perspective on the incredible shifts it has had on our world. Many of them are good. Some of them are not. I firmly believe the good greatly outweighs the bad. It has revolutionized communication, learning, travel, business and on and on and on.
At its core, an open Internet brings the world closer together. It allows people across the globe to connect on a human level. Beyond geographic boundaries; beyond national lines; beyond cultural divides; beyond age gaps. It allows us to share, iterate and evolve and an ever-increasing pace.
Free and Open Global Communication is no longer a nice-to-have. It is a core right for all of humanity. One of the most powerful tools we have, if used responsibly, to bring us together as a world-people (or we-manity as my friend Flip would say). The more open and fair this access is – the more level the playing field can be for everyone across the globe.
While my government is far from perfect, I have been proud that the United States has stood behind protecting this incredible resource.
Until today. Today, the FCC chose to repeal the Title II protections for #NetNeutrality. In their minds, their reasons may be noble. However, I will not mince words. Regardless of their intention, this decision puts the needs of large corporations (Internet Service Providers – or ISPs) above that of our citizens and sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world. (And yes – I do believe in the power of free markets, however for many people the broadband market in the US is not free. It is highly monopolistic.)
This has clearly taught one lesson. We can no longer trust the protection of this resource and our right to freely communicate to any single authority. It represents an absolute power that must be distributed for our best interests.
In recent years, we have seen technology massively disrupt and decentralize power. The blockchain and cryptocurrencies are a great example — taking absolute power away from central authorities and distributing it into the hands of people across the world. This isn’t perfect either; there are still “haves” and “have-nots”. We are trending, though, toward a world with more equal access. With vigilance and integrity, I believe we can achieve greater and greater fairness.
As such, I propose we create and utilize technology in order to provide open and fair access to the Internet.
Possible solutions include: starting new ISPs that are owned by both small private groups and municipalities. Deploying wireless mesh networks. Creating a new generation of VPN (virtual private network) services that are resistant to throttling and censorship. Developing a new, distributed meta-network that takes control, monitoring and censorship powers away from any single entity — be they corporate or government. There will be many more.
Our ingenuity is our greatest asset. We will not be silenced or censored. We will not go quietly into that good night.