Why Journalists Should Fight For Net Neutrality – Part One

For a while now I have wanted to write a blog post on the intersection of net neutrality and the future of journalism. Today I saw a tweet that gave me the perfect jumping off point.

One of the best known chroniclers of the struggles in journalism, @themediaisdying, retweeted a post from the Poynter Institute’s @romenesko:

“NOT LOVING THIS: RT @romenesko: AP considers charging for early delivery of news stories to some online customers. http://is.gd/419bX

Indeed, a number of leading journalism commentators have been weighing in on what this might mean for the AP and for journalism at large. There is a lot of speculation out there, but for me, this tweet provides a perfect analogy for the issue of net neutrality.

One of the best descriptions of net neutrality comes from SaveTheInternet.com: “Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination. Net Neutrality is the reason the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech online. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not to choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.” (Full disclosure, I work for Free Press the organization behind SaveTheInternet.com)

The AP’s plan to auction off early access to its content to the highest bidder would create a two tiered news and information system that privileges the big incumbents with the big dollars over smaller, new ventures. It would limit competition and inhibit innovation. This move by the AP, if it decided to move forward, would mimic similar moves by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who want to line their pockets by controlling what we can see, read, and do online.

It’s ironic that this announcement comes just days after the Knight Commission released its landmark report in which it calls on all sectors of society to work together to ensure that there are “no second-class citizens in the democratic communities of the digital age.” In both cases – net neutrality and the AP, corporate interests are trumping the public interest and the result is more corporate gatekeepers meddling in the free flow of information.

We all understand that we need to find ways to pay for the journalism we need, but auctioning off special access to the news isn’t the answer. We need to create more – not less – access to the news, online and off.

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