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Minow Debates to focus on whether to preserve net neutrality

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CHICAGO - The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end net neutrality regulations has fueled a national discussion about the future of the Internet. In a debate titled “Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data is Created Equal,” supporters and opponents will argue which is the right policy for American democracy, culture and competitiveness.

The debate is the second of the Newt and Jo Minow Debate Series, presented in partnership with Intelligence Squared U.S. Hosted by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, it will take place at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in the Law School’s Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. 

The debate is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. In addition, the debate will stream live online for audiences worldwide and be recorded for broadcast as part of the syndicated public radio show and podcast “Intelligence Squared U.S.” and the new cable television show “Up for Debate” on Newsy.

Debating in favor of the motion “Preserve Net Neutrality”
Mitchell Baker, chairwoman, Mozilla Corporation and Foundation
Tom Wheeler, professor, Harvard Law School and former chairman, Federal Communications Commission

Debating against the motion “Preserve Net Neutrality”
Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of and ReasonTV
Michael Katz, professor, University of California, Berkeley and former chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission

Newton N. Minow, a 1950 graduate of Northwestern Law, is the originator of the televised U.S. presidential debates, which inspired the idea to honor his legacy with a permanent debate program at his alma mater. 

This year’s debate occurs during a time of ongoing national controversy regarding digital democracy.Adopted in 2015, net neutrality promised to preserve the democratic spirit of the web by ensuring that all data would be treated equally, regardless of where it originated. Under these regulations, Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, the corporate giants who deliver the Internet into our homes, could supply web infrastructure, but could not preference how data passed through it.

Denying them that power, supporters argue, remains critical to ensuring that users and content-creators can discover ideas and information without censorship, or charges, from these prospective gatekeepers. After all, no person should have to pay for every video streamed on YouTube; no startup should be hobbled against established companies who buy faster access to consumers; and no minority voice should have its ideas throttled by wealthier interests.

On the other hand, net neutrality opponents argue that the genius of the Internet has been its individually driven, organic development, free from the heavy hand of so-called net neutrality. These burdensome regulations constitute dangerous governmental overreach, stifle innovation and spike costs for both consumers and providers. The result, they maintain, will be a less interesting, less democratic, less innovative web.

The Minow Debate Series is made possible by friends and colleagues of Minow, who donated funds to honor his numerous contributions to public and civic life by establishing an endowment to support a series of debates that engage outside experts, law school faculty and students on important and timely legal topics.

Appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s, Minow drafted legislation that expanded the broadcast spectrum and promoted the implementation of communication satellite technology in an effort to foster communication, democracy and innovation.

Minow also served as law clerk to the Honorable Fred M. Vinson, chief justice of the United States; assistant counsel to Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson; and chairman and director of the Public Broadcasting Service. He also co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 U.S. presidential debates. He was a partner at Sidley Austin from 1965 to 1991. 

Currently the Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus at Northwestern, Minow earned both his bachelor’s degree (1949) and his J.D. (1950) from the University. He joined the Northwestern University Board of Trustees in 1975 and became a Life Trustee in 1987. 

This program has been approved for a total of 2 general CLE credit hours in the State of Illinois. 

A non-partisan, non-profit organization, Intelligence Squared U.S. was founded in 2006 to address a fundamental problem in America: the extreme polarization of our nation and our politics. Their mission is to restore critical thinking, facts, reason and civility to American public discourse. The award-winning debate series reaches more than 30 million American households through multi-platform distribution, including radio, television, live streaming, podcasts, interactive digital content and on-demand apps on Roku and Apple TV. With more than 140 debates and counting, Intelligence Squared U.S. has encouraged the public to “think twice” on a wide range of provocative topics. Author and ABC News correspondent John Donvan has moderated IQ2US since 2008. 

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