Why I Care About Net Neutrality

I probably should have written this a long time ago.

No, I definitely should have written this a long time ago. We’ve heard about it for years. Now we’re about to see what will happen.

We can argue that the internet has its share of negatives, but it has plenty of positives too. No one can deny that the internet brings people closer together. It allows us to quickly plan events (political marches, for example). It allows people to meet each other, and assemble in smaller groups, even if they live all over the world (some of my private girl-talk support groups come to mind). It allows individuals with dreams, and small businesses, with small budgets – to operate in a free and open market. This is because the rules established by the last administration ordered that internet providers are required to provide open access to their networks for ALL (legal) digital content.

This Thursday, December 14, The FCC will vote on an act that could change all that.

Do you remember not too long ago, when you watched tv shows streaming on Netflix, that oftentimes the shows freeze for minutes at a time, having to buffer (that annoying circle with the percentage number in the center of your screen)? It drove you mad, right? It made you swear, and want to just give up and turn off the tv entirely.

Well, that’s because Comcast was literally, and secretly–slowing down Netflix’s ability to stream to its users. Why? Netflix competed with Comcast’s (the internet provider) ability to show us their content. Comcast was finally ordered by the FCC to stop this practice because it was in violation of the Internet Neutrality principle, which was adopted by the FCC in 2015.

Net Neutrality means that all internet traffic should be treated equally. It guarantees a level playing field for all websites and internet technologies. With net neutrality, the ISP’s (internet service provider) only job is to move data—not to choose which data to privilege with higher quality (faster service).

This principle was designed to protect free expression and innovation on the internet and promote investment in the nation’s broadband networks. The Open Internet Rules are based on already established legal precedents set in the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The rules are clear:

  • No blocking: Providers cannot block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No throttling: Providers cannot impair or degrade traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No paid prioritization: Providers cannot favor some net traffic over other net traffic in exchange for consideration or payment of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their own affiliated businesses.

How does this affect us – regular people?

Working while at work (and coffee with a shot of Bailey’s. Mmmm….)

It preserves our right to express ourselves freely online. Our online networks are open. We aren’t blocked from any legal content. Our providers don’t discriminate against any applications or content on those networks. We can join any online group. We can read our favorite blog without having to wait 20 minutes for it to load. It also allows for small business owners to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach customers (like Etsy, or any small business owner’s personal website).

Think of it like this: Your phone company doesn’t decide who you can call and what you can say. Neither can Comcast, AT&T nor Verizon, nor any other network providers.

On December 14th, just a few days from now, the FCC will vote on whether or not to adopt a new policy, presented by the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, which will give ISPs new power which has the potential to censor distribution of content and conversely charge more for better access.  Pai argues that such providers don’t “transmit” data, and thus do not fall under the FCC’s authority. Pai argues that the current regulations “depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”

What do you think? Does it look to you like Comcast, for example, has been prevented from expanding??

Ronald Newman, ACLU director of strategic initiatives, said, “In a world without net neutrality, activists may lose an essential platform to organize and fight for change, and small organizations may never get a fair shot to grow and thrive. Congress must stop Chairman Pai’s plan in its tracks and ensure that net neutrality remains the law of the land.”

And don’t kid yourself: Without Net Neutrality, ISPs WILL seize every possible opportunity to profit from their position. They will charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment. Cable and phone companies will create “fast and slow lanes” on the internet. Many will literally slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with.

People like us – regular people – we’ll be financially forced to using a slower lane of service.

Pai’s plan will suffocate small online businesses. No longer will it be so easy to obtain information on the internet, unless of course, you want to pay a lot more for it.

It’s also another step in a direction our country is taking, where more power and more financial opportunity is given to massive corporations (as if they don’t have enough power and money), and the freedom to seek information, disseminate information, to do business on a smaller and independent level, will be taken away from individuals like us.

Many would say that the people have already been screwed for quite some time, and the FCC vote on December 14th will reflect that…despite the fact that Pai’s received thousands upon thousands of pleas against it.

That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. We can continue to fight against censorship and groups like Citizens United shaping the world to serve only the richest people on earth.

On Wednesday, December 20th, I’ll be at the Hideout Inn’s Last Chance Holiday Market. The funding for this event will go towards the ACLU, one of largest organizations fighting to preserve a FREE internet. I will also have a jar at my space, in which you can donate. I hope you’ll talk to your congressman today, make a donation, and preserve not just our freedom, but yours as well.

Sources: ACLU, Save the Internet, TorrentFreak, Google.