Attracting billions of lobbying dollars and millions of public comments, the debate over Internet regulation may be the most important of our decade. Advocates of net neutrality see the Internet as a utility, where all users should have equal opportunity access, whereas proponents suggest new regulation for fast and slow lanes, with the fastest speeds going to the highest bidder.
While the Federal Communications Commission remains undecided on the new rules, the Knight Foundation took the opportunity, in partnership with Quid, to conduct a thorough analysis. Expanding upon initial findings covered by NPR, the full report, Decoding the Net Neutrality Debate, is available to the public.
Supported by Quid’s intelligence platform, the report separates signal from the noise, parsing through significant data related to the debate:
- Media analysis of more than 35,000 news sources and 300,000 blogs from January to July 2014.
- Twitter analysis of 120,000 tweets with #NetNeutrality from July to August 2014 and from #InternetSlowdownDay.
- Comment analysis of about 1 million public filings to the Federal Communications Commission.
- Lobbying analysis of approximately 2,500 filings from 2009 to the second quarter of 2014 from the U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database.
- Grant funding analysis of data for media access and telecommunications companies.
From our analysis, we were able to understand the public sentiment related to net neutrality and who has influenced the conversation both by share of voice and monetary lobbying spend. Many interesting insights were found, including the key takeaway that shows public opinion is overwhelmingly pro net neutrality. The conversation supporting net neutrality dominated both Twitter and the FCC comments while telecom and cable companies chose lobbying over public debate.
Opposing opinions, participating in different arenas, raise provocative questions. How will the public voice affect the final decision made by the FCC and political leaders? What impact will lobbying have on the future of the open Internet, especially given that more money is devoted to lobbying against net neutrality?
And as the Knight Foundation points out, perhaps the most important question that we as a democratic society must consider is how do rules and regulations either protect, or restrict, our freedoms?
Democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. What are the actions that get us closer to that ideal?
As technology re-shapes the relationship between policy makers and constituents, we hope that big data can empower the voice of the citizen, encouraging more informed regulations.
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