What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality
by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Pot legalization is making significant headlines lately with both Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama making positive comments about it. As the documentary we are working on demonstrates, a major part of what helped the movement organize, be heard and become legit, is the web and all it has to offer. Now, the freedom of the web – which we all take for granted – is at great risk because we are about to lose net neutrality.
If you don’t know what that is, the one and only Stephen Colbert explains it best here, and it’s followed by an interview with the Columbia Law School Professor who coined the term. In short: The court of appeals just ruled in favor of Verizon (and a few other major corporations) – and not in favor of the entire population of the planet – regarding net neutrality. Net neutrality means that all Internet traffic should generally be treated equally and that the Internet providers (Verizon, Time Warner, et. al.) cannot decide which websites will be streamed faster or slower, and which will not be streamed at all. Without net neutrality, the Internet providers could technically change it into a place where only big corporations can get their content to us.
The fact that a few corporations are trying to gain control of the Internet and are succeeding would seem to be a reason for all of us to protest in the streets to clearly show the government that we demand that the Internet stays free. But the media doesn’t seem to be stressing how dangerous this is, so most people have missed it.
Why is this so scary? We found a good summary here, but this is how we see it.
Without the random and free nature of the Internet, we would stand to lose the following:
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed a website like Amazon to redefine the way we all shop (and sell) and lowered our overall costs by hundreds of percent.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed Netflix to redefine the way we watch movies and TV.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed websites like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft to create a new shared economy which forced industries like hotels and taxis into a competition that improved the service and price for everyone.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed grassroots groups to organize and redefine our politics. From Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party (through pot legalizers) — thanks to the web, politicians are forced to listen to their constituents and are discovering that a huge percentage of the population, many times, has different opinions than what the mainstream is expressing.
* And we haven’t even gotten to Facebook, Twitter, etc. The freedom of the Internet has changed everything in our lives – from commerce to the nature of our communities.
Net neutrality affects all of us, in everything we do in the digital age.
The underlying question is who owns the Internet. Is it the cable companies or the citizens of the world? Is the Internet a commodity that whomever owns it controls it – or is the Internet a utility – like gas, electricity or water, to which everyone has the same right to be connected, regardless of income?
Being indie filmmakers, we know all too well how much we need the Internet to stay free. The Internet helped bring an audience to watch our previous documentary Yiddish Theater: A Love Story in the theaters for over four months and is now enabling it to be sold on Amazon on a daily basis. How can we hope to achieve the same with our new documentary if we need to pay to even have an online presence?
After the court ruled that the Internet belongs to the cable companies, it will be up to the FCC to decide the fate of the freedom of the net – they need to change the law to reinforce net neutrality. From the few voices that were heard from in Washington after the court decision, it is obviously not a priority for most politicians.
So it is up to us, the people, to make sure they know this is a priority. Please call your representatives and let them know you want net neutrality defended by law. Or sign an online petition (there are a few circling around on Facebook).
We must use the freedom we still have of the web to do everything we can to keep it.Tags: Dan Katzir, Documentary filmmaking, Freedom of the Internet, Hollywood, Legalize It, Net neutrality, Pot legalization, Ravit Markus, Technology liberation, Yiddish Theater: A Love Story