President Obama continues to impress me (and everyone). He gave a speech last Friday and issued a report on securing our nation’s “cyber infrastructure” (from the title the speech) or, more broadly, our “communications infrastructure” (from the title of the report). In his speech, he praised network neutrality, saying : “I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be — open and free.”
I was proud to see that Obama (a) gets the importance of the Internet to all we do, and (b) understands the importance of preserving our rights while preserving our security–no false dichotomy.
This post is about (a).
(a) The Internet is part of our basic infrastructure, like electricity and water. I wish I could say anything as well as the President can. I’ve been working for years on Internet policy, trying to capture why it’s so important. Among media activists, we’ll often say: whatever your first issue is (environment, health care, war, poverty), your second issue should be media, because media shapes how people understand those problems and the possible solutions. In fact, a former FCC Commissioner, beloved of media reformers, has a book on media called “Your second priority.” Essentially, democracy should always be your second priority, whether it’s media, campaign finance, etc.
But Obama was able to explain how the Internet is also a “second priority” to most everything, from security to economics to speech to talking with your children.
So what understands the importance of the Internet to everything we do. From the speech.
America’s digital infrastructure — the backbone that underpins a prosperous economy and a strong military and an open and efficient government. …
This world — cyberspace — is a world that we depend on every single day. It’s our hardware and our software, our desktops and laptops and cell phones and Blackberries that have become woven into every aspect of our lives.It’s the broadband networks beneath us and the wireless signals around us, the local networks in our schools and hospitals and businesses, and the massive grids that power our nation. It’s the classified military and intelligence networks that keep us safe, and the World Wide Web that has made us more interconnected than at any time in human history.
Obame gets that the Internet is fundamental. It is fundamental to our lives. And we can’t let the short-term profit motives of a handful of companies (Comcast, AT&T, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, etc.). Internet is infrastructure. Like roads. LIke electricity. We should how to use it, in our lives, rather than having our options constrained by these few carriers. And we should ensure it’s available to all Americans, as, again, basic infrastructure.