In today’s world, the idea of life without the internet as we know it is something that we shudder to think about.
“How could we function without it?”
“I’d feel naked without internet” (I’ve heard this before).
“I need it so that I can order food and never leave the basement” (Ok…I made that up).
If you use and love the internet, then the topic of net neutrality is critical because there is something underway which could determine and possibly threaten how you use the internet, regardless of where you are in the world.
Net neutrality allows you to enjoy the internet the way you know it today.
But it is under threat, and time is running out to do something about it.
What is Net Neutrality?
So let’s back up and provide an overview before we get too deep.
The whole principle around net neutrality is about allowing you the right to communicate and access all the content freely, while forbidding the ISPs from interfering with the content you view or post online.
— Vimeo (@Vimeo) June 28, 2017
It is a topic that has been talked about in the past, as companies and activists have protested against how the internet should be governed.
And things died down.
However, it is under attack again after a proposal to re-appeal by the new chairman of FCC (Federal Communications Commission), Ajit Pai (who is also coincidentally a former Verizon lawyer).
On 14 December 2017, the FCC is expected to vote on its plan to kill net neutrality and control how the internet should be used.
Now I know that it sounds quite complex, political and a bit boring to read, so perhaps US chat show host John Oliver can do a better job of explaining it in an entertaining manner.
What Would Happen Without Net Neutrality?
You might think that it’s not a big deal. If there is more control on how the internet is used, perhaps it would add more quality, a fairer playing field for everyone and more opportunities for others.
If only it were that simple.
Because the telecom giants would have complete control of the internet, it will mean that they and the government entities will call all the shots and decide who gets to be heard and who doesn’t.
They could slow down competitors’ content.
They could throttle the amount of traffic to a specific site.
They could charge fees to specific companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment and push everyone else down.
Quite literally, it can destroy the internet as we know it today.
And if you are a business owner, net neutrality is critical for you. Without it, your online business could struggle as the ISPs will act as gatekeepers and control your online visibility.
Why should they decide whether your audience should arrive at your site or not?
And imagine if it existed before the likes of Google and Facebook existed. Would they have been allowed to be innovative and build the product that billions of people around the world use?
Who Supports Net Neutrality?
A range of major players in the internet world are rallying together to support net neutrality.
Yes, they would benefit from it, as they wouldn’t want the internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast controling traffic to their sites.
But at the same time, the choice of accessing their websites has always been with the users, and that is under threat.
Let’s look at who supports net neutrality, starting with the inventor of the internet:
— Reddit (@reddit) March 10, 2015
We strongly oppose the FCC’s proposal to roll back #NetNeutrality.
These changes will harm music fans and the artists they love.
— Spotify (@Spotify) December 5, 2017
— Google (@Google) July 12, 2017
But it’s not just the big names that support it, citizens, small business owners, creative individuals and a host of other everyday people are keen to help this cause.
According to a July 2017 research by Freedman Consulting, an overwhelming majority is supporting the existing net neutrality rules.
And a separate research by Sunlight Foundation offers another insight into the public’s opinion.
The company has analysed 800,959 public comments about net neutrality via FCC. They have found that less than 1% are opposed to net neutrality.
I think it’s fair to say we know what the majority prefers.
What Will Life Without Net Neutrality Look Like?
If you want real demonstrations as to why net neutrality matters, here are a few examples of what it could look like without it:
— Netflix US (@netflix) September 8, 2014
— Netflix US (@netflix) July 12, 2017
In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages. pic.twitter.com/TlLYGezmv6
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) October 27, 2017
The ISPs’ Counteracting Arguments Against Net Neutrality
Perhaps there are reasons for the fight against net neutrality by the FCC.
Maybe the ISPs have their own reasons and valid points as to why they think it’s a good idea.
Let’s look at the details and the numbers.
The Internet Association, whose mission is to “represent leading global internet companies on matters of public policy” and “foster innovation, promote economic growth, and empower people through the free and open internet”, has researched the ISPs’ claims.
They have taken the liberty to look into the details of what the ISPs have told the government about the impact of net neutrality on investment.
ISP Claim 1: Infrastructure investment among leading ISPs has decreased 5.6% because of net neutrality
Research has shown that telecom investment has increased following net neutrality, with no evidence that it has caused infrastructure to decline.
ISP Claim 2: It is hampering competition because it’s a regulatory framework
According to research, ISPs and their consumers are actually enjoying historically low production costs
ISP Claim 3: It has hurt innovation within the telecom industry
Over time, the telecom patent application has increased by 58.4%.
ISP Claim 4: It has hurt free speech and expression
This is particularly baffling, as the current framework has dramatically increased the level of free speech, online data and content
So as you can see, it’s difficult to see the logic behind the ISPs’ claims.
What Can You Do?
There have been many campaigns carried out in the past to raise awareness and fight for the support of net neutrality.
The last one was on 12 July
On 12 December 2017, the internet will break.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it will be another day of massive online action, which is literally called “Break the Internet”.
This is the day where Fight for the Future is asking everyone to…
“get creative and do everything possible to interrupt everyday experience by symbolically ‘breaking’ your site, app, or social media channel. We don’t actually want to break anything. We want to get people’s attention by showing what an internet broken by censorship, throttling, and new fees would look like and then ask them to call Congress and demand lawmakers stop the FCC’s repeal.”
By doing so, this can help make Congress stop FCC’s vote and save net neutrality.
So spread the news and raise awareness on social media about net neutrality and share the protest that is taking place.
Sign up to ‘Break the Internet’ on 12 December 2017.
Blog about it and the day of action, like I did.
Add a banner to your site or social media profile and link to BattleForTheNet.com.
Let the FCC know how you feel about it by visiting their site by the adequately named gofccyourself.com (thanks to John Oliver for setting this up 😉 !).
And if you are in the US, write to Congress and call.
You can also attend an organised protest near you (US-based only).
Some people might argue that net neutrality is more for the global companies such as Google, Netflix and Reddit.
And it’s true, as they do benefit from it.
But it’s the rest of us who deserve to have a say. We deserve the option and the freedom to choose how we access the world wide web.
By allowing the FCC to have widespread throttling, blocking, censorship and extra fees, it benefits them from a financial perspective…and that’s it.
We have until 14 December to save net neutrality and dismiss everything that the FCC has said.
Or as John Oliver says, “go FCC yourself”.
So get involved before it’s too late.
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