Synopsis by Mark Deming
Robb Topolski is an unlikely crusader for free speech -- on the surface, he seems to be a mild-mannered geek with a fondness for a cappella music. However, when Topolski tried to upload some rare recordings of barbershop quartets to a peer-to-peer file sharing website in 2007, he found that his broadband Internet connection slowed down to a tiny fraction of its usual speed. Topolski, who worked as a computer network engineer, ran some tests to find out what was happening and made a surprising discovery -- his Internet service provider was monitoring the web use of its customers and using software to slow connections for certain activities and certain websites. Topolski took his ISP to court and has become a passionate spokesman for Net Neutrality, believing that ISP's have no right to interfere with what their customers are doing and should not be watching their online activities. Topolski's case is one of the key inspirations behind the documentary Barbershop Punk, which explores how a small number of powerful corporations have the power to control the world wide web, and what ordinary people can do to promote the free exchange of information in cyberspace. Featuring interviews with Ian MacKaye, Janeane Garofalo, Damian Kulash of OK Go, Henry Rollins and many more, Barbershop Punk received its world premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival.
corporate-espionage, crusade, freedom-of-information, freedom-of-speech, information-technology, Internet