#NOISEtalk: Net Neutrality

What it is and why you should care.

Welcome to #NOISEtalk - our new blog series on hot topics in art and culture (or relevant to them), things that matter to us and why they should matter to you. We'd very much like for this to be a conversation - comment below or tweet us #NOISEtalk to have your say.

Net Neutrality is a term that's popped up quite a bit within recent months. You might have heard it thrown around in relation to Netflix and ISPs Comcast and Verizon. But before we get into its relevance to us, here's what it actually is.

Those of you old enough to have suffered through that awful dial-up sound when you connected the internet should also be aware that the web has been pretty unregulated and open since it became commercially available. In fact, the mere existence of some of the darker corners of the World Wide Web (i.e. rule 34, and a certain imageboard website that must not be named) is proof enough. 

But freedom is all well and good until someone gets hurt, be it impressionable tweenage girls, internet conglomerates or whole governments. The question is, should ISPs and governments be given the power to control who gets how much bandwidth and/or access?
(image right: "Here Come the Plebs" by Kate Cheesewright)

We've seen this issue raised abroad in places like China with the internet censorship laws, where users are unable to access sites like Soundcloud and Twitter to pretty much all Google sites. They actually have whole governmental departments dedicated to internet policing, reported to be 2,000,000 strong in 2013.

But how does this affect creatives and more specifically, NOISE artists?

Well right off the bat as a mainly web-based arts charity, we don't have it in our budget to pay for extra bandwidth allocation, which would create problems for us and our users. Whilst the day to day usage of NOISEfestival.com should remain okay, times of high traffic like our Festival deadlines, or if we hit the press with a big story about an artist for example, will be where there is the most trouble.

When we're not in the midst of the NOISE Festival (that we stage every 2 years), our website functions as a hub for creatives and their ePortfolios, which are designed to show potential employers the best of our artist's work as well as provide a fully-rounded look at their creative identity and skill. But what good would NOISEfestival.com be if the artworks displayed can't be seen in high quality?
(image left: "Unannounced Incidents" by Emily Hatcher)

To accommodate for the extra money we'd have to splurge on the best possible experience for our users, we'd have to raise our membership fees which, with a user-base consisting of struggling graduates and un/underemployed would obviously not do at all.

Now it's unlikely the way we, as individuals, will experience any changes to our ISPs, but we will notice the difference in our ability to consume, such as lower quality content on websites our ISPs have no stake in. There are many different ways to display your creative work online (though unlike alternatives, NOISE is more than just a platform), so if your ISP just so happened to make a deal with a competitor, they would be able to make it harder for you to use NOISEfestival.com effectively and that's a bind we'd be unable to get out of, should the law change.

What about censorship? As some of you may well know, we're partial to a healthy bit of freedom of speech, as shown in our 2013 Art of Protest exhibition. What good is art if it says and makes you feel nothing? The sharing of issues and concerns through creativity is a time-old tradition, just look at how the masters from our Art of Protest displayed theirs. NOISE Festival 2006 Fine Art Curator Stella Vine protests against extradition in “Gary”, Banksy comments on man's sense of superiority in “Laugh Now” and Lennon & Ono said no to the Vietnam War with their honeymoon “Bed-In.”

If the internet became regulated by those in power, there’d be much on NOISEfestival.com that wouldn't be slapped with the law due to censorship, for example, a recent #NOISEfave James Fellows and his caricatures of politicians and dictators.
(image right: "Protest Poster" by Melanie Dautreppe-Liermann)

Be it because we're mainly a net operation or because we simply love the internet, I think it's pretty obvious which side of this debate we're on, but what about you? Do you think it's about time the internet was regulated and left to the whims of people with more money and power? It's a loaded question, but it's true enough.

 

UPDATE:

The EU has voted for Net Neutrality, but the UK government is pushing back, arguing that the law would make it difficult to ban illegal material.

Tweet us your thoughts #NOISEtalk and be a part of the conversation.

Written by Zairah Amin