Commentary. Net neutrality must be defended — not in order to sing praises to the large multinationals, but to protect digital citizenship.

This is just the beginning of the net neutrality fight

The powerful and utterly Trumpian Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the authority on media in the United States, has decided by a majority vote to eliminate the net neutrality rule that it had enacted in 2015.

We should all pay attention — this is not something that only concerns a few specialists.

“Net neutrality” is in the end the very foundation of the democratic and non-classist character of the infosphere.

It is, in short, the legal principle according to which restrictions cannot be imposed on Internet access and connections. This concerns technical devices as well as the unfettered freedom of the users.

It is a crucial principle, strongly backed by the Obama administration, and the subject of debate in Europe as well. In Italy, but with little success, the theme has been discussed endlessly without any effect for the past two legislatures, albeit with good proposals (particularly, in the current five-year period, those of Quintarelli).

The outrageous cancellation of this rule, decided by the American regulatory body, is the kick-off in the final struggle between old and new media.

The old power of the companies owning the physical telecommunications networks (the telecom operators, which made enormous profits with phones), now under siege by the grassroots user activity on Google, Facebook, Twitter and data aggregators in general, is fighting back. It is better, for them, to bring everything back to a convenient form of hierarchy: wealth.

If net neutrality is not mandatory, services will end up divided into packages offered on the basis of the economic opportunities of those who surf the web.

Wealth as a yardstick of the right to information.

This topic is a delicate one, now more than ever, with the growth of a mature demand, asking to be able to buy cross-media packages with movies and high-definition video, as well as entire sections from various digital libraries. The owners of these “territories” want to put up walls and tolls, like in the Middle Ages. And Trump, whose nature is accurately described in Naomi Klein’s delightful book (2017), makes us understand that progress is not inevitable, as we believed for years. No, indeed.

Against the extraordinary opportunities of technological evolution, the “terrible right” of ownership prevails — to invoke the title of a famous book by Stefano Rodotà, a theme that Cesare Beccaria also took up in turn.

The FCC, in its conservative leanings, has opened up a conflict that will reach a fever pitch in the times to come, between the capitalism of the electronic age and cognitive capitalism.

It is a fight to the death, from which only one will come out a winner, taking no prisoners. And it is, in fact, our future, after the crisis of the hangover of liberalism and of the globalization fetish.

Net neutrality must be defended — not in order to sing praises to the large multinationals, but to protect digital citizenship. The internet and the global network are a common good for all.

Just like education and health are connected to the specific nature of the public sphere, and touch on fundamental rights.

The district attorney for New York has already announced his intention to sue the government about this decision. It might be the case that the bad guys have overestimated their strength.

But the good guys need to wake up — not only the newly powerful that stand to lose from this.


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