A new 5-minute video in the “op-docs” section of the New York Times makes a persuasive argument for net neutrality with a mash-up of clips, including a speech from President Obama and excerpts from comedian John Oliver’s recent broadside on the subject.
Created by Brian Knappenberger, who produced the acclaimed Aaron Swartz documentary The Internet’s Own Boy, the video is an argument for why internet providers should operate like public utilities and treat every customer in the same fashion.
“Throughout American history, neutral networks have been the backbone of the American economy. If you think about electricity, the electric grid has been this incredible platform for innovation” says law professor Tim Wu in the video, asking what would happen if people bought a toaster only to discover that it didn’t work very well since the electric company had cut a deal with another toaster company. Here’s an image of that:
The “op-doc” coincides with a high-stakes debate at the FCC over whether the agency should reclassify companies like Comcast as so-called common carriers, in order to preserve traditional principles of the internet, which forbid broadband providers from favoring traffic from one website over another.
The video, which features other familiar tech names like Laurence Lessig and Cory Doctorow, is also significant because it shows the evolving role of the traditional op-ed, as opinion-makers like the New York Times flex the full-power of their electronic platforms. Knappenberger’s video will remain hosted on the Times’ website, but can also be shared and embedded by other websites, as I’ve done below.