Keep the Internet free and neutral

Editor of the Reformer:

Net Neutrality is a ho-hum word not on the lips of everyone, but it is absolutely crucial to a democracy. Privilege internet access so that there is a "slow lane" and a "fast lane?" Do you know the ins and outs of this issue? In a word, if you are rich, you’re in, and if you are poor, you’re out. Think of it this way: in a country that mandates public education, would you un-level the playing field so that some have access to much more information, much quicker, than others?

People who want this Internet "fast lane" -- including President Obama’s appointment to the Federal Communications Commission -- will squeal that the rich have always gotten better educations because they can afford better schools. Well, it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up to Vermont, where the State Supreme Court ruled that poorer neighborhoods getting poorer schools is unconstitutional, and as a result, in 1997 the Legislature passed Act 60, the Equal Education Opportunity Act:

Well, I say, and most Vermonters will agree, that Vermont’s Act 60 was "right on the money." These things can never be exactly equal, but our people deserve, and have a constitutional right to, rough parity in the quality of public education. Because you have more money, should you have much better access to information? Well, if you have a public library, do you make books and educational media cheaper for rich people? No, you don’t. Public means public, and because access to information is almost synonymous with access to quality education, and because the Internet is a relatively recent invention and historically public policy doesn’t really define how we should treat it, the Internet must now be classified as a public utility, what is known as a common carrier, so that public policy remains "right on the information" as well as the money.

Nothing else would serve the interests of preserving our democracy more than equal opportunity in the realm of access to information. Keep the Internet free and neutral.

John Wilmerding,

Brattleboro, July 11