Net neutrality is a topic that’s been in the news recently – and for good reason. On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission ( the FCC) will vote whether to repeal the net neutrality laws that are already in place. At the head of the supporters of the repeal is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was formerly a top lawyer at Verizon. His anti- net neutrality stance has pitted many tech-conscious people against him.
First, what is net neutrality, and why is it important?
Net neutrality means that people can use the internet freely, without their internet service providers (ISPs) controlling what they see and do. When an individual uses the internet to visit a website, the ISP must provide a consistent speed, no matter what the website is or what the individual is trying to load. So far, net neutrality has been maintained with a set of laws known as “Title II”. However, Ajit Pai is trying to change that, and is pushing for a permanent repeal of these laws.
A repeal of net neutrality would mean the end of the open internet, which has allowed small businesses to flourish and individuals to explore freely. Big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon would be able to slow down, or “throttle”, internet speeds for certain sites. This new power could easily allow ISPs to profit greatly while leaving the consumers powerless. One of the greatest fears is that ISPs could throttle speeds for websites that compete with their products, while speeding up connections for their own. If, for example, Comcast created a TV series that competed with a similar Netflix series, net neutrality as it is now would prevent Comcast from slowing down or blocking Netflix. However, if the net neutrality laws were repealed, Comcast would be able to essentially control consumers’ behavior by changing their connection speed. Another prospect that would result from the repeal of net neutrality is potential censorship from ISPs. If they can control how fast to load materials, they can systematically block certain sites, effectively leading to the end of free speech on the internet.
Across the internet, concerned individuals and organizations are rallying together to save net neutrality and free speech on the internet. Websites like battleforthenet.com inform people about what net neutrality is and why it is necessary. Net neutrality is also seeping into popular culture, as illustrated by John Oliver’s take on the subject. (His video can be seen on the Battle for the Net website.) Powerful tools like Mail My Gov (mailmygov.com) and Resistbot (resist.bot) can help people get in touch with their representatives in Congress quickly and easily. Resistbot in particular has made the process much more user-friendly than the FCC’s site by ensuring that the user knows what to do and by using common platforms like SMS and Facebook Messenger. Other efforts to make American voices heard have been made by individuals like John Oliver, who registered the domain name gofccyourself.com. This website links directly to the FCC’s comment page on the matter, where dozens of people have now posted their opinions.
So, what can you do? First, find out what you can about net neutrality: visit battleforthenet.com for the big picture and advice on how to make a change. Also consider looking on Reddit, where users are posting useful content every day. Pages like r/netneutrality and r/KeepOurNetFree are often good for this. Finally, reach out to your representatives in Congress and share your knowledge with others! Social media, especially tweets, can have a greater impact than you think, especially in the case of net neutrality supporters who post every day. Spread the word about net neutrality. Hopefully, we will be able to preserve and maintain a free and open internet for all.