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Los Angeles Is the Home of the Open Internet

The Internet started here in LA in October 1969, with a digital message sent from a computer at UCLA to a computer at Stanford University in Palo Alto.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters/PRI

The Internet started here in Los Angeles in October 1969, with a digital message sent from a computer at UCLA to a computer at Stanford University in Palo Alto. The message passed unimpeded between the machines, using agreed-upon standards, and without anyone paying anyone extra for it to travel at the fastest speed possible.

Built upon these rules of neutrality and openness, the Internet today is an essential part of life across the world.

Just like everyone else, I use the Internet daily, even as an occasional content creator, taking and sharing photographs on Instagram. In fact, I am using the Internet right now to write this.

Given the Internet’s importance, we increasingly see the world’s people, places, cars, planes and even our LA buses and subways being connected to it. A goal of ours is to make sure that every resident, visitor, student and business has access to high-speed broadband across the city, so that everyone is able to access online services throughout their daily lives.

In addition to improving our quality of life, our city’s economy also relies upon having an open Internet. As one example, on Sunday we saw the creative excellence of our city on full display at the Academy Awards, and we see the same creativity displayed every day on screens across the world delivered by the Internet.

Similarly, our universities, hospitals, government agencies and other institutions use the Internet to deliver their services. More than five million people come to City of Los Angeles government websites every month to virtually visit the public library, find transportation options, file building permits, pay utility bills or learn about events all over our city.

We are also seeing the Internet used to enable devices to talk with other devices, in order to provide services to people. Referred to as the Internet of Things, this means, for example, that the buses themselves send their locations via the Internet to the people standing at the bus stops. There are sensors in the pavement across the city that report how much traffic there is through the Internet. Many homes have thermostats which can be set via the Internet using an app or website.

Not surprisingly, the Internet is also fueling an explosion of innovation in startups that are helping to grow and diversify LA’s economy. Whether it is Snapchat, Dollar Shave Club, Oblong Industries, Rubicon Project, MarketShare, Factual or any of hundreds of other startups here in LA, the Internet is at the core of their business.

The creative industries, the institutions, the startups and us as individuals all need an Open Internet to be successful.

The Internet has always been an Open Internet where online traffic is treated equally, whether the digital packets are an essay sent by a student to their teacher, or a movie streamed from a multibillion-dollar corporation. Since its inception, it has been a matter of principle that the Internet’s underlying protocols and standards are open, and the traffic uncensored.

Further, the Internet itself has never been centrally governed. While aspects of the Net are well-organized, such as the standards bodies, the open-source communities and the assignment of domain names and network addresses, the Net overall is a loose cooperative system that has worked extraordinarily well with self-defined rules around network neutrality and openness. ICANN, the international body responsible for assigning the top-level domain names and network address ranges, is also based here in LA.

We need to ensure that the original rules of neutrality and openness remain in place as we increasingly see access to the Internet controlled by fewer and fewer entities.

Today, very few companies provide high-speed broadband access to the Internet in LA. While the Net is increasingly important to everyone everywhere, the actual number of networks available to most individuals and companies for accessing the Internet is very few. Today in LA, we have a choice of a few wired providers and a few wireless (cellular) operators.

In August 2014, we filed comments with the FCC on network neutrality. So did millions of others. This issue is important to many across the country.

Tomorrow — Thursday — the FCC will vote on whether the Internet remains neutral and open. We hope that the Commission will vote in support of net neutrality so we all can keep using the Internet fairly and openly, as it has been ever since it was invented in Los Angeles.

A fourth-generation Angeleno, Eric Garcetti is the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles. His “back to basics” agenda is focused on job creation and solving everyday problems for LA residents. Garcetti was elected four times by his peers to serve as president of the Los Angeles City Council from 2006 to 2012; from 2001 until taking office as mayor, he served as the council member representing the 13th District, which includes Hollywood, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Atwater Village. He was raised in the San Fernando Valley, and earned his BA and MA from Columbia University. He studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the London School of Economics, and taught at Occidental College and USC. Reach him @ericgarcetti.

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