- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday on December 14, 2017 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States voted to eliminate net neutrality rules, effectively allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to become gatekeepers to content on the internet, and allowing them to legally block websites and services.
Today we want to talk to you a little bit about why this matters so much to us here at Starling Social, and why you should care, too.
What is Net Neutrality + Why Does It Matter?
Net neutrality, also referred to as "internet freedom" is the idea that your ISPs should treat all websites the same.
This means that anyone, anywhere, can launch a business, new website, or social network and have access to the same market as big tech companies, media conglomerates, and corporations. It ensures a fair playing field for everyone.
Here's a quick summary of the top four reasons why Net Neutrality is one of the most important battles of our time:
1. Net neutrality ensures equal access to information
Access to information is a human right, not a privilege. End of story.
2. Net neutrality helps prevent unfair and discriminatory pricing practices by ISPs
Without an open internet, corporations and ISPs will control how we access information by treating internet like cable packages.
So instead of paying a monthly fee to access the entire world wide web, companies will be able to charge higher premiums for access to certain websites, meaning that people who can't afford to pay the price don't have access to the same resources, information, and audience as everyone else.
Under the new rules these companies would be able to slow down or block access to services they don't like. They could also charge higher fees to rival companies and make them pay for higher transmission feeds, or set up "fast lanes" for their preferred services.
This also means that as a business you may be subject to additional fees if you want your website to be included in specific content packages - a toll nobody should have to pay.
3. Net neutrality protects freedom of speech
Your ability to speak your mind, share your opinions, and provide feedback to private business and government is your right as a citizen, and by eliminating net neutrality rules the FCC has taken steps to effectively limit free speech online.
The internet is revolutionary because it allows everyone with an internet to create news, participate in conversations, and be an active member of their local, national, and global communities. Think of recent movements like #MeToo, the Women's March, or even the rise of alt-right conservative views.
Regardless of where your political leanings lie, it's impossible to deny that the internet has played an increasingly pivotal role in political expression and organizing, and allowing ISPs to control what users can see, do, and say online undermines this democratic right.
Are you ready for an internet that looks an awful lot like the Great Firewall of China? Because that's what's coming.
4. Net neutrality promotes innovation
If you're a business owner then the repeal of net neutrality regulations should terrify you. We cannot state this plainly enough.
By giving complete control to giant corporations the FCC has cut the legs out from underneath any up-and-coming tech startup who may otherwise have had a fighting shot in a completive, but otherwise egalitarian, online ecosystem.
Until yesterday anyone - a tech startup in India, a teenager in Ohio, or a mompreneur in Australia could start a website or e-commerce store and have the same access to market as anyone else running a digital business. Now, however, your "new" website may not be included in the latest AT&T package, which means your business may lose out before you've even begun.
For example, AT&T and Verizon are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the FCC repeal since they can now freely give priority to the content they provide to viewers, which will likely hurt rivals like Amazon, Sling TV, YouTube... or the next wave of tech innovators and disruptors.
What Can You Do?
The internet was built on a powerful, yet amazingly simple idea: anyone with an internet connection can have access to the entirety of the world wide web, and the internet providers don't get to control what you access, or who has access to you.
Anyone who wants to start an internet service is free to do so without paying extra fees, and users were free to choose the services that they prefer - including which social networks to frequent, news sites to read, businesses to support, and so much more.
Whether you're a Canadian pal, an American colleague, or any of our digital friends from across the globe, please join us in taking these steps to fight back against this horrific attack on our most basic rights:
- Use the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s online form to ask your Member of Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s "hasty and misguided dismantling of net neutrality protections”.
- Sign Save The Internet's petition to put pressure on U.S. lawmakers.
- Share your thoughts on social media. Make sure to use #NetNeutrality and tag @FCC on Twitter.
- Scroll down to the bottom of this page on the Fight For the Future website and use some of their more creative visual methods to spread the word.