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Cary Brunswick

May 27, 2014

Two-tiered Internet is a bad idea

I have to admit I was always a little surprised back beginning back in the 1960s and since that you could find just about any book, no matter how subversive or radical, in most American bookstores.

It helped me realize the good fortune of living in the United States, where, despite the exceptions, as a general rule free speech and expression trumped attempts at censorship.

You could walk into a bookstore and find Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto,’’ Mao’s “Little Red Book’’ and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf’’ displayed, often on the same shelf. Nearby, you might see “Soul on Ice’’ by Eldridge Cleaver, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X’’ and Abbie Hoffman’s “Revolution for the Hell of It.’’

Granted, American censors were always more concerned with what they considered obscene rather than politically subversion. But still, it was and remains a credit to our value of freedom that such books were and are available.

In the same vein, I often have been amazed at the free expression found on the Internet. In the brief quarter century of its life, the Internet literally has played host to websites characterized by just about every possible belief and image, including extremes in taste that challenge even my own beliefs in freedom.

Despite that, the value of an Internet free to both those who post content and those to access that content cannot be doubted. The free flow of information is what education and democracy are all about.

But, unfortunately, that free expression and accessibility could be nearing an end.

On May 15, the Federal Communications Commission proposed so-called “net neutrality’’ regulations that may open the door for Internet providers to create a two-tiered net, a fast lane for the big dogs and a slower version for everybody else.

Let’s face it: we all want a faster and more reliable Internet, the evolution of which has been a steady climb of more power and speed. But what will happen if only the richest content providers are able to pay for the right to have that speed and reliability?

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Cary Brunswick

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