From its inception, the Internet has passed from being a great new invention into something essential for our everyday lives in the modern world. It has the power to connect millions of people across the globe, inspire political movements, cement freedom of speech, launch new companies, influence social policy, and create cultural shifts. All of these things are solely possible because currently, the only thing needed is an idea––the Internet will disseminate the message and your voice will be heard. The reason why the Internet has been so successful thus far is because of Net Neutrality.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the principle of no governing forces over the Internet. Simply put, there are no gatekeepers that tell you when and how much of it you can use, or how you use it (within reason). In the U.S., it has always worked this way since the beginning––as long as you are able to access the Internet via cable or wireless, what you do with it from there on is your choice––it is a free market and democracy. Whether you like to upload content and share your passion with the world or you like to see the great new things people are doing, no one is controlling how fast or how much of it you see or if it becomes popular or not.
The Current Danger
Currently, cable companies like Verizon and Comcast, otherwise called Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sell us access to the Internet and we pay them a monthly fee to get the entire Internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has other plans, however. In a move to establish what they call “light-touch regulatory freedom” the FCC no longer requires ISPs to provide full range Internet access, meaning that ISPs can reduce our access and give preferential treatment to content that serves their business interests. This also means that they can block, charge for or reduce the speed on sites that do not align with those interests.
ISPs would become the first gatekeepers in US Internet history, which would in turn have a grave impact in today’s socio-economic landscape. The Internet will look more like tiered TV and cable subscriptions, dividing the access, speed and flexibility of sites depending on the amount you pay––this would also mean that startups unable to reach an agreement with ISPs would ultimately be left on the lowest tier, experiencing long load times on their site unless they’re willing to pay more. Though the FCC says that this will help the economy through investments and competition between providers, this fails to take into account how the innovation and forward-thinking essence of startups positively affects our economy and how stifling these can heavily reduce the potential for economic growth.
What can I do?
Exercise the power you still have by speaking up and engaging in the conversation. The vote to end net neutrality takes place on Thursday, December 14th, 2017 and it takes all of our voices to keep net neutrality in place. Go to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ to check out all the ways you could help.