[Updated May 24, 2017]
Today the FCC released its proposal, which passed a vote last week, and is asking for comments! It is integral that everyone who wants to preserve Net Neutrality leave a comment. And contact your congressperson.
We’d like to draw your attention to an issue that is very important to us AND very important to you, even if you might not know it: NET NEUTRALITY.
Net Neutrality establishes rules that keep the Internet a level playing field, providing users with equal access to all websites and content. Newly appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai is strongly urging the overturning of Net Neutrality, putting the safeguards for fair play in peril. Overturning Net Neutrality will benefit only a few special interests at the expense of everyone else. It WILL make the Internet less free and independent. It WILL stifle innovation, choice, creativity, and competition.
Here’s the short version of what Net Neutrality means:
Right now, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc. are required by law to treat all websites and content as equal. Net Neutrality ensures that they cannot show a bias (for example, through faster and more reliable service) toward one company or organization or sole proprietor over another. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs will be able to dole out access on their terms (i.e. money, or more sinisterly, censorship). They can slow down your Internet connection, (or those of small businesses, non-profit organizations, schools, churches) while allowing or encouraging corporations, political organizations, and wealthy individuals to pay to make their websites and content (or websites and content they support) run faster and more efficiently. Perhaps, at some point, the little guys will need to pay an exorbitant amount of money to even have a website or access to less popular products and ideas.
Ok, this sounds too tech-wonky to be that serious. How could it possibly affect me?
I’m going to dummy this down, as others have done for me (those who know me will tell you I’ll never be mistaken for a tech-savvy guy.)
Imagine the Internet as a smooth super highway. With Net Neutrality, a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento (sticker price: $2.2 million) and my crappy 2003 Dodge Neon (if it’s still running somewhere) have the same access to the roadway, services, rest stops and scenic overlooks and the same rules of operation and speed limits.
What happen if the FCC overturns Net Neutrality?
My Neon might not be able to afford to get on the highway for long stretches, or at all. It might be shunted off to an access road full of potholes, delays, random lane closures, even random road closures. There will be traffic jams, lower speed limits, and inconsistent services along the way. Perhaps, if the “Internet Highway Patrol” doesn’t like the looks of the car (how can one hate the sleek lines of a Neon?), they will insist I pay to upgrade the car before being allowed to continue. Perhaps, if they don’t like the looks of me, they might not let it back on the road at all. Meanwhile, that snazzy sports car whizzes past us unimpeded. It is a simple matter of fairness.
Who will be impacted directly and immediately by the overturning of Net Neutrality?
A LOT of people and businesses you know and care about. The mom-and-pop place with amazing pie competing with the faceless chain restaurant, the start-up manufacturing company in your town with a niche idea, the specialty bakery down the street, the small farmer at the weekly market, the clothing store a friend started, your kid’s school advocacy newsletters, your buddy who fabricates custom cycle parts and sells them on the web, the family-run hardware store, the record store with snarky clerks, nearby health and wellness options, park district events, message boards of all stripes, and community action organizations that affect you. In short, people who live and work in your neighborhood or town and have a vested interest in keeping them vibrant and responsive to local needs.
And, yes, full disclosure, independent music labels and the artists they support will be hit hard as well. This biz is hard enough already, but the end of Net Neutrality could very well mean that we can’t tell you about our artists, sell you their music, or, with discriminatorily slow site speeds, even stream music to you. Oh, and you think it’s hard now to find out when your favorite bands (or bands you don’t even know are your favorites yet) are coming to town amidst the bought-and-paid-for white noise? Imagine when only enormous media conglomerates can afford to promote their products/popstars (same thing, really) in an efficient manner. Welcome to an exclusive world of high ticket arena shows, festivals, and boring music; the small venues and artists we exist alongside won’t be able to afford to connect with you.
In short, anyone who turns to the Internet for information, entertainment, products, services and a sense of community will see the web change before their eyes.
Who does it benefit?
Corporations and organizations with the deepest pockets are licking their chops at the prospect of overturning Net Neutrality. They will ensure their ideas, goods, and services are the most easily accessed, and operate with no loyalty or concern for anything other than the shareholders’ bottom line. If your name is Bob GiantBank, Susie Hedgefund, Steve MegaPharm, or Alice SuperEntertainments, you’re gonna love Net Neutrality going away.
And if you think you aren’t paying ENOUGH to your Internet Service Providers now, you’re in luck!! Prices will go up and service will go down.
I believe that each of us is connected to someone who will be affected by this issue, and all of us need to let our voices be heard NOW. If Net Neutrality is overturned, it will be damn near impossible to undo.
The rise or rebirth of communities with their small and local manufacturers, restaurants, breweries, bookshops, and hundreds of other businesses and organizations has been one of the great successes in the age of the worldwide web. It was facilitated by a neutral Internet. New ideas and products flourished or failed on their own merit, not by outside forces dictating winners and losers. Isn’t that what the free market is all about?
This is a non-partisan issue.
So much of the recent rancorous election cycle boiled down to people feeling like they aren’t part of the system anymore, that Wall Street is winning out over Main Street, that the little guy is getting marginalized and feeling powerless. The Net Neutrality issue speaks directly to this. It cuts across party, ideological, and socio-economic lines.
I don’t think any of us want to be told what we can see, hear, or experience on the Internet. I don’t think any of us want to be told by a few powerful interests who we can connect with or what content we will have access to.
Keep the ISPs and the people paying them from playing favorites and punishing non-favorites, or the web will look like a drab Megamall instead of the organic hotbed of creativity and sharing it is now.
This isn’t about us. It’s ok to hate our artists (though we wish you didn’t) or not listen to their music (though we wish you did). It’s about nurturing the kind of communities, both online and brick-and-mortar, that we want to live in, and fear we will lose if Net Neutrality is overturned.
It’s about open access, plain and simple.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE ISSUE:
LET YOUR FEELINGS BE KNOWN!
Contact FCC Chairman Ajit Pai: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 (888) 225-5322
Do NOT assume they understand this issue fully. Let them know how this will directly affect YOU, a voter in their district.
IT IS ESSENTIAL WE LET OUR FEELINGS BE KNOWN IN A STRONG, ONGOING WAY.
STAY ENGAGED! There are lots of distractions these days and Net Neutrality is not as sexy as Russian spies or whatever the hell other skullduggery is sucking up the news cycle oxygen on any given day, but THIS ISSUE WILL IMPACT YOU, YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR NEIGHBORS IN A VERY REAL WAY.
The Internet will be a distinctly different place if Net Neutrality disappears. The interests of a few will have won out over the freedom of choice for the rest of us.