Opening Remarks from David S. Isenberg

Welcome to Freedom to Connect!

Freedom to Connect is about choosing what we do on the Internet. The Internet was designed deliberately so that we Internet users are able to decide what we read, what we watch, where we visit, who we associate with, what we publish, which devices we attach, and what software we run on these endpoints.

Freedom to Connect is also about avoiding what we DON’T want. This is a hard problem, but it is central to our Freedom to Connect. We don’t want software we didn’t choose in our devices. We don’t want people we don’t know reading our private email. We don’t want industry storing our transactions and locations until they figure out how to sell us something. We don’t want our government storing our data, “just in case.” When we avoid visiting certain Internet locations because we fear our government, we’re not free.

Over the next two days, when you hear about megabits and gigabits, please remember, you’re hearing about choice. Faster networks are valuable only when they let us choose. If we have a 6 megabit cable TV channel that somebody else schedules and controls, then, effectively, we have one bit — on or off.

Over the next two days, when you hear about competition, please remember, you’re hearing about choice. If your telco is offering 2 megabits and your cableco is offering 25 at the same price, that’s not a choice. When your telco and your cableco make a secret deal for the cable to be the wire and the telco to be the mobile provider, that’s not a choice. If you and your neighbors want to build their own network, but ALEC-written, telco-funded state law makes it illegal, that’s not a choice.

Anti-choice, thy name is SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, bandwidth caps, domain seizures without due process, omnivorous data collection by government and industry, non-public modifications of Internet protocols in the name of network management, the tying of devices and applications to transport, and ever-escalating industry consolidation.

Secretary of State Clinton “borrowed” the phrase Freedom to Connect from this very stage. She said that Freedom to Connect is “the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.”

She said, “Those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind.”

President Obama recently said that the Freedom to Connect electronically with our fellow human beings is a basic freedom.

Incidentally, the President and the Secretary of State were talking about the Middle East. But we are here today because the Freedom to Connect is for the United States too.

Nobody in power ever said, “Hey here are some rights. Hey let me give you a few more.” No. The Freedom to Connect will not be given to us. We have to take it. The 46 speakers over the next two days will — each in their own way — show us how.

Thank you for coming to Freedom to Connect. Listen carefully. Choose wisely.

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