On the 4th of July 1776 a Declaration of Independence was signed by the 13 American colonies. More than a century later, democracy spread like wildfire. And the Philippines owe its idea of democracy from America. We’re here now, in the 21st century— a century of great technological achievement where we cross national borders like never before. It is a period where our ability to express ourselves is unmatched in all of history. It is also a century of marked with remarkable poverty, and a great, and getting greater digital divide.
It is this great digital divide that is endangering tomorrow. It isn’t a digital divide between the halves and have nots— those with the gadgets and those who do not have them. Though from a certain point of view, it could be seen that way. No, this digital divide is far, far more insidious. It is a divide between those who understand the promise of the Internet, and those who would stop at nothing to fundamentally destroy its greatest promise— the limitless possibility of human expression.
For the most part you see, we’ve focused on the evils, or crime, and not about rights.
We say hacking is a crime, but there are legitimate uses for it— like a gun has legitimate uses.
We say downloading is a crime, but is there a point where sharing content actually helps an artist sell? Best selling author Neil Gaiman seem to think so. In short, Gaiman believes he is selling more in countries where his books are pirated.
And we have telco owners believing that their future revenue is dependent on being content providers themselves. Doesn’t that make you pause? What is to stop a telco from blocking a rival media network from publishing content on their pipes? Not without clear rules, and clear rights of what we can expect from telcos, and what telcos, content creators can expect from us.
We need to talk about rights. And with the discussion on rights, set limitations because that’s ultimately what freedom is about— where our rights end is when it encroaches on another’s. The only way for this to happen is for everyone to come together. Stakeholders defining what the future should be. Bloggers only have part of the equation. The private sector with their billions worth in investment have only part of the equation. The IT community has part of the equation. Government too holds just a part of the equation. This is the only way for a true justice to be heard going forward. It is only through an Internet Freedom Act can we best prepare for the future, and how best we can create that future.
I have a dream that before President Aquino leaves office, an Internet Freedom Act gets signed into law. The only way for this to happen is for both the public and private sectors to come together and do it. There must be a common understanding of what the Internet is, and what it can do for everyone. So I dare everyone who knows about Network Neutrality. Translate it for the masses. Explain to them what they should demand of their telcos— access so long as they pay for that access. I dare everyone who understands what the Internet is, and the whole promise of its freedom. Talk about it. Share your thoughts with friends. Make normal people understand this universe we live in, and exist in. We need to reach out. Translate geek for normal people. We must find common ground, and that common ground begins with common understanding. We must speak the same language.