Net neutrality signals larger fight for freedom and democracy

It’s not health care or the economy. It’s not even the war in Iraq. The most crucial issue facing the nation is the ability to get unimpeded information from the sources people choose over the Internet, according to some online journalists and activists.

Net neutrality, the ability to surf the Internet without restrictions on the sites or content a user wants to view, is the most important issue because of the way Americans perceive all other future issues, said Josh Silver, a founder of Free Press, an organization that works for media reform and political transparency.

Comcast was recently found guilty of violating Federal Communications Commission net neutrality policy by degrading the speed of some customers’ peer-to-peer file-sharing networks without telling them.

“Right now that vital path to democracy is being debated. That’s really what net neutrality is about,” said Matt Stoller, a reporter for Open Left.

Adam Green of MoveOn.org, which has led grass-roots efforts to preserve net neutrality, said the Internet has successfully connected MoveOn’s 3 million members, helping many become more politically active and engaged.

“The little guy really can make a difference, especially in this Internet-driven world,” Green said.

The panelists also noted that Sen. Barack Obama supports net neutrality, while his opponent in this year’s presidential race, Sen John McCain, does not and has been portrayed as a bit of a Luddite.

The three participated in a panel discussion at the Big Tent, a media blogging location set up during the Democratic National Convention in downtown Denver and sponsored by Google, a variety of progressive advocacy groups and alternative media outlets, including the Center for Independent Media, Colorado Independent’s parent company.

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J.C. O'Connell

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