The future of the Internet is at risk. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) effectively eliminated net neutrality rules, which ensured that every content creator on the Internet-from big-time media concerns to backroom bloggers-had equal opportunity to make their voice heard. Now, large and powerful corporations are lobbying Washington to turn the World Wide Web into what critics call a "toll road," threatening the equitability that has come to define global democracy's newest forum. Yet the public knows little about what's happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.
Some activists describe the ongoing debate this way: A small number of mega-media giants owns much of the content and controls the delivery of content on radio and television and in the press; if we let them take control of the Internet as well, immune from government regulation, who will pay the price? Their opponents say that the best way to encourage Internet innovation and technological advances is to let the market-not the federal government-determine the shape of the system.
"The genius of the Internet was that it made the First Amendment a living document again for millions of Americans," says Robert McChesney, a media scholar and activist and co-author of OUR MEDIA, NOT THEIRS. "The decisions that we're going be making ... are probably going to set our entire communication system, and, really, our entire society, on a course that it won't be able to change for generations."