Net Neutrality – Why Care?

The Berkman Center’s June 2006 Filter contains an article titled Net Neutrality, Tech Mandates, and Pop Culture in which Wendy Seltzer argues that net neutrality is a necessary ingredient for the creation of “public created culture.” She cites a number of forces that threaten the creative environment including limitations on hardware, restrictive content licensing agreements, and erosion of Internet neutrality. She notes that changes in technology and law that protect current business models can cause collateral damage: “[D]igital editing and conversion technology is dual-use. Copying “Lost” might be infringement, or it might be a political statement, mixing the mysterious island footage with that of a bumbling political leadership . . . If entertainment companies get their wishes, new hardware and software won’t be able to generate that kind of statement.” (Emphasis Added)

Thinking about how to teach this subject I wondered: How does one convey the issues lumped under the “net neutrality” label to those who don’t read The Filter? What does it take to interest everyday Internet users? A start requires answering questions raised by this excerpt:

1. What specific hardware restrictions, content licensing terms, and current or proposed legislation would eliminate creation of this type of statement?
2. How, specifically, do/would they affect the creative environment?
3. How does Internet neutrality foster the creative environment?
4. Why does it matter whether someone can create a “Lost” mashup? What values does such creativity serve?

I’m not critical of Seltzer–obviously her short article is written for a specific audience that likely has answers to these questions.

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