Community Broadband: Privacy, Access, and Local Control

A great article from the EFF on why Americans need community broadband.

Communities across the United States are considering strategies to protect residents’ access to information and their right to privacy. These experiments have a long history, but a new wave of activists have been inspired to seek a local response to federal setbacks to Internet freedom, such as the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality protections, and Congress’ early 2017 decision to eliminate user privacy protections.

Internet service providers (ISP) have a financial incentive and the technical ability to block or slow users’ access, insert their own content on the sites we visit, or give preferential treatment to websites and services with which they have financial relationships. For many years, net neutrality principles and rules, most recently cemented in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, helped prevent much of this activity. Net neutrality helped create a landscape where new ideas and services could develop without being crowded out by political pressure or prioritized fast lanes for established commercial incumbents.

One need only look to two of America’s most dominant web presences to recognize how different the world might be without these protections. Both Facebook and Google began their path to dominance as dorm room experiments. How very different would our social, family, and professional lives look today if MySpace and AltaVista had been able to pay ISPs to prioritize their traffic and throttle that of competitors, hardening the market from competition and disruption?

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