May 2nd, 2006
Preserving Network Neutrality

Save The Internet
If you read blogs or write your own, buy from or the iTunes store, or use Google to surf the internet, preserving network neutrality affects you.

This post focuses on the writing component o. “garden writing”. Many of you arrived at Zanthan Gardens because your search for information about gardening in Texas, native plants, or xeriscape led you here. Maybe you wanted to know more about Indian hawthorn, heirloom roses, bluebonnets, or oxblood lilies. Maybe you were curious about when specific plants bloom in central Texas or if 40 days of 100 degree heat was what we should expect in Austin every summer.

You could have checked out a book from the library or read the garden column in your local newspaper, but the internet makes possible for you to gather a lot of information quickly and compare facts easily, so that you can form your own opinions. And it’s easy to correspond with the author with followup questions or comments. On blogs, like Zanthan Gardens, you can participate in the discussion with other garden lovers.

The beauty of the internet model is that it provides access to unfiltered information. It is also a way for the smallest voice to participate in the global conversation. I have been a writer all my life, yet I doubt that people in New York, Rhode Island, Indiana, New Zealand, Japan and England would be reading my writing on a regular basis were it not for internet publishing. Even if I had become a traditionally published author, I would not have the sense of community I share now by receiving your comments and reading your blogs in turn.

If you live in the USA, your ability to access information freely, network neutrality is being threatened in Congress. Unlike China, it is not the government that wants to filter our access, but the telecom companies, such as AT&T and Verizon. They are lobbying Congress to pass legislation to make it possible for them to direct our searches to “preferred” sites…people who pay the telecoms a premium or their own commercial ventures.

Imagine doing a search on Google and only seeing the results under “Sponsored Links”. The reason I use Google (and the reason Google is fighting the telecoms on this) is because I want access to all the information that is available. I want to decide for myself what to read.

I buy books at, songs from the iTunes store, and plane tickets from Travelocity. I don’t want my internet provider to direct me to its “preferred” sites. I want to remain a loyal customer to those businesses who provide what I’m looking for. Companies that have well-designed, useful websites should not be crippled by my internet provider.

I spend more time on the internet than watching TV precisely because the internet enables me to choose my own content. The commercial nature of TV is self-filtering; only what is popular is aired because advertisers want to reach the largest audience possible. Independent, minority, out-of-the-mainstream, non-corporate content is filtered by its nature. If it doesn’t appeal to a large audience, then advertisers won’t pay to have it aired. I don’t want to be subject to the tyranny other people’s tastes and interests. I prefer to cultivate my own. Many of you are great reads, even if you aren’t on the bestseller’s list.

What Can You Do?

Learn more about Net Neutrality.

Common Cause provides one of the clearest summaries of the debate before Congress and a comprehensive list of links to articles reporting on the issue. also has a fact sheet. ( has already been the victim of gatekeeper filtering. AOL blocked any email mentioning a coalition against AOL’s proposed “email tax”)

Sign a petition

Email your representatives Better yet, call them or use traditional mail.

Blog about it. This is not an issue just for the political or techie blogs, but for every one of us who publishes on the internet. I’m glad that I found your gardens online and I’m glad y’all found me. I’d hate to think that the day might come where my search would lead me only to the “official” site of Yahoo gardening or AT&T florists.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “Preserving Network Neutrality”

  1. From M2 (Austin):

    I talked with B about NN — we very much need to go out to dinner together, soon, the four of us — and it was very interesting the crux of the matter. Currently the Internet is without real legislation. No laws define its borders, so no laws defend its borders. To preserve net neutrality requires legislation. So we get to choose between the devil of capitalism and the devil of big government.


  2. From Christopher C:

    Just wanted to say thank you for linking to this post from back in April so that I could find it.

    My pleasure, Christopher. I hope others followed the link here, too. I couldn’t decide whether to or not to write more information elsewhere…I think I said what I wanted to say best right here. Thanks for looking. — mss.