Well seeing as you are reading this, and given HTML's heavy association with the Internet, you would be correct in deducing that I am on the Internet. I have been since early 1989, making me a seasoned hand at using the net but not a veteran.
I am both fascinated by and semi-active in helping foster the community that the net has created. I have helped maintain a file archive, an FAQ or two and generally try to promote the more beneficial side of the net to those who don't use it.
Of late serious challenges to the net's style of life, Senator Exon's bill in the US and the Trevor Rodgers Bill here in New Zealand, have been made. Mostly these bills have been drafted by people who don't understand the net and their bills reflect that by being fairly unworkable and restrictive. Ostensibly their aim is to 'protect' children from the pornography and illegal materials available on the net.
This is not a bad aim, but the method by which it is being achieved is at too high a cost and with many side effects. The whole affair seems almost calculated to shut the net down. I am not going to say that there is a deliberate conspiracy to do this. However I do think that quite a few people are disturbed, and worried, by what is possible on the net and that an unconcious conspiracy is occuring.
The net is new, it dissolves the boundaries between countries effortlessly and alot of the ways in which we communicate, live and think are going to be reshaped - if the net continues on. This of course represents change and if there is one thing the status quo hates, it is change.
I am not going to say that the net is a panacea for all our social ills, if anything it will make some of them worse and introduce new ones. But it does offer us communication and resource sharing in ways we never found practical before. It offers cheap global communications that allows the whole world to come that much closer and maybe, just maybe, let us understand each other a bit better.
That, to me, is the nets potential and the reason it should be allowed to continue to evolve and shape itself.
I realise that I am preaching here to, mostly, the converted but this is something important to me that needs to be said - so please forgive me my excess and zeal here. We need to educate those who haven't used the net as to what it is capable of. We need to counter the bad image the press keeps foisting on us, not completely underservedly, of the net being a haven for hackers, pornographers and terrorists.
And we need to do it before we lose something that could one of, if not the, most significant advances of the 20th century.
It isn't hard to do, and I don't expect inhuman effort. Simply write a letter to the editor of a paper that publishes a story about the net that is either incorrect or show bias. Whenever non-net connected friends or family dicuss the net ensure that they are aware of the good sides to it. Be aware of the net related legislation being drafted and use your voice and vote to ensure only the practical legislation gets through.
In short simply advocate the net, quietly, as and when you can.