The first Knight News Challenge of the year asks: "How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?"
Knight, with help from the Ford Foundation and Mozilla, is offering $2.75 million for the winning ideas. The challenge aims "to attract a broad range of innovative ideas from journalism, policy, research and education."
The challenge comes just after Verge Managing Editor Nilay Patel wrote a much-passed-around essay called "The Internet Is Fucked (But We Can Fix It)." Its thesis: "the internet is a utility, there is zero meaningful competition to provide that utility to Americans, all internet providers should be treated equally, and the FCC is doing a miserably ineffective job."
Patel is skeptical that the market can address these problems on its own, because of lack of competition among Internet providers. He suggests pressure on the FCC to stop Comcast's planned merger with Time Warner, for instance:
American politicians love to stand on the edges of important problems by insisting that the market will find a solution. And that’s mostly right; we don’t need the government meddling in places where smart companies can create their own answers. But you can’t depend on the market to do anything when the market doesn’t exist.Last month Dan Gillmor called on major philanthropic foundations to help address what he called the "the forces of centralization" he says are "inexorably strangling democratized technology and communications."
Please fund a bunch of research and development of open technologies and services. In other words, help re-create an infrastructure for tech liberty. Don't pick winners. Pick possibilities and help as many as possible, building on current experiments and projects and finding new ones that sound promising. Understand that most will fail, and be fine with that.Knight plans a panel during SXSW called "Remember When the Internet Was Free?" on Saturday, March 8, at 12:30 p.m.