The FCC says they want to make it easy for someone to deliver wireless broadband for free. But, as we say here at Berkman, there is free as in beer, and free as in speech. And the FCC’s new idea is UNFREE as in speech. Why? Because the license for the spectrum they want to auction requires a mechanism that “filters or blocks images and text that constitute obscenity or pornography and…any images or text that otherwise would be harmful to teens and adolescents. For purposes of this rule, teens and adolescents are children 5 through 17 years of age.” As someone pointed out in a gathering here at Berkman just now, that puts the United States right up there with China. Further, the rule states, “should any commercially-available network filters installed not be capable of reviewing certain types of communications, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, the licensee may use other means, such as limiting access to those types of communications.”
The problem is the ruling makes the Internet like broadcast television or radio, where we still can’t use George Carlin’s seven words, when it really should be like the telephone, where it’s none of your @O#*$U# business what I want to talk about. I am neither a lawyer nor a technologist-philosopher (like David Weinberger who blogged it here), but I know this is BAD. I read the text (actually I just searched for the word “pornography” and read that bit) and then went here to tell the FCC how I felt. (The comments submission form is very tricky, the 2 relevant dockets are 07-195, and 04-356, but I found it rejected my attempts to put them in myself (got an error message after submitting) so I clicked on proceedings and search for them.
That’s the basic Internet freedom part.
There’s also the sleazy background part about the M2Z, the company that’s pushing this. Business Week points out that one of the two founders of M2Z is a former FCC official. The company’s site encourages visitors to send letters to Congress and the FCC tell them to support “free, family-friendly, nationwide broadband.” Wendy suggested they rename it the “free, family-friendly, FILTERband.”