At the Republican National Convention: a RIer pushes for Internet freedom

Former Rhode Island State Representative David Segal, now executive director of civil liberties and government reform group Demand Progress, is in the thick of a push to get the Republican and Democratic parties to make Internet freedom a plank in their official platforms.

Demand Progress was a key player in the Internet revolt that killed the SOPA and PIPA bills, which were designed to clamp down on Internet piracy of movies, music, and pharmaceuticals.

Critics called the legislation hamhanded and suggested it would cripple the web's open architecture. And when Internet users rose up in broad opposition to the bills - flooding Congress with calls and emails - a stunned Washington quickly got on board. That sudden conversion, it seems, will now be reflected in official party orthodoxy.

Conservative web site the Daily Caller reported Friday that the GOP has crafted an Internet freedom plank to be approved at the convention this week. Inspired by the libertarian wing of the party, the platform has a conservative flavor, with a focus on stripping away government regulation.

“We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new technologies such as mobile delivery of voice and video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem.”

Notable targets of GOP ire include the "woefully out of date" Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the FCC's "net neutrality" rule, which the plank calls an attempt to "micromanage telecom."

"Net neutrality," broadly speaking, requires Internet service providers to treat all content equally, with no preference for their own content or for sites that pay for speedier connection times.

Lefty Internet freedom advocates, like Demand Progress, have embraced net neutrality. And in an email exchange with Segal, he said he was hopeful that the expected Democratic plank would "speak to Net Neutrality."

Still, he seemed broadly pleased that the GOP was moving ahead with an Internet freedom plank. "In some respects it's great - the privacy language, for instance," he writes. "And it can definitely be generally understood to preclude bills like SOPA.  Demand Progress supports Net Neutrality, but it wasn't realistic to expect the GOP to side with us on that."

Looking forward to the Democratic National Convention, Segal said the Dems are all but required to approve an Internet freedom plank - if only to ensure that the campaign donations keep flowing from employees of the big Internet companies.

"I think the swift move by the Republicans really forces the Dems to do something too," Segal writes. "The Republicans have made remarkable Silicon Valley inroads of late, and the Dems need to catch up."

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