Freedom To Connect (F2C) April 3 & 4

I'm heading down to D.C. this weekend to cover the Freedom of Connect Conference for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Daniell (Digital Bicycle) and I will also be posting observations during the conference at the Media Policy Blog.

Make sure to also check out AudioBerkman, on Monday and Tuesday, where I'll be posting audio from the conference including my interviews with Michael Calabrese (New America Foundation), Ben Scott (Free Press), and other conference participants.

Here's Daniell's post, on MPB, in preparation of the conference beginning on Monday:

"I just got back from a couple days of driving around my home-state of Michigan, a state whose past economic strength was largely derived from the auto industry. Now, I'm no economist and I'm a horrible historian but it seems to me that there is a direct connection between the rise of the automobile in America (and the economy in Michigan) and the development of the interstate highway system.

Though I absolutely hate the horribly overused 'Information Superhighway' metaphor, the more I drove through auto-country the more I thought about the role the internet has played in fostering innovation and economic growth around the entire country. This didn't occur because the companies who strung the wires, buried the fiber, and ran the switches created a super-intelligent system, but because the "Stupid Network" allowed for innovation not only in the center of the network but on the ends, where both smaller companies and individual consumers are able to shape the future direction of the internet.

It's because of this the internet has had the kind of impact on our economy, society, and daily interactions that it has, and it's because of this that we have so much to lose if the companies that own the pipes decide to start limiting how they are used for their own economic benefit (which is exactly what they'll do if given the opportunity…. see Barbara Van Schewick's excellent thesis: Towards an Economic Framework for Network Neutrality Regulation if you'd like proof of why this will happen if the broadband companies are not regulated).

All of this is a setup to explain why I think that the Freedom to Connect conference that's being organized by David Isenberg is hugely important. If network neutrality is going to have a fighting chance in the coming telecom legislation rewrite it's going to be because of the people speaking at, attending, and informing the dialogue of this conference.

While those of us in the world of Community Media spend a lot of time fighting for the retention of local franchising, we'd be foolish not to recognize the importance of network neutrality to our own future as content distributors. Because in a situation where network providers are allowed to decide which applications work on their network and which content providers are allowed to provide content to their customers, our Freedom of Speech is greatly entangled with our Freedom to Connect. If we retain our funding and channels but lose the guarantee that people will be able to access the content made by our citizenry without the permission (and/or payoff) of their ISP, we're as effectively neutered as if we had to screen every production before it went on the air.

Of course, I'm sure there are some who disagree with me on these (and many other) points, so I welcome them to confront me on this topic. If you're looking to do so, you can find me at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, MD on April 3 and 4, or at the BarCamp that will directly follow F2C on April 4 and 5. Hope to see you there."

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