I know it’s been a very long time since you last heard from me. As a result of some various life changes I had sort of gone in to a kind of hibernation mode, choosing to focus more on some personal life aspects. I do, though, feel the need to add my voice to those that are currently calling to try and avert a potentially disastrous decision that could affect the technological and social future of the United States of America. I am of course referring to the upcoming FCC “vote” in two days time to repeat Net Neutrality laws put in to place during the Obama administration.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about what these laws actually do. Odds are if you’re reading this blog you have a pretty good sense of it anyway, but just in case I’ll summarize. Net Neutrality is the idea that the flow of information on the Internet should be free flowing and uninhibited by any agents acting as carriers in between the source and the destination. This means that your ISP cannot indiscriminately interfere with the video content that you stream from Netflix. They cannot censor your access to Reddit. They can’t block your access to small, self-reliant websites such as this blog. In essence, Net Neutrality dictates that all content on the Internet should be treated the same and without discrimination.
When the FCC decides to repeal this mandate it will open up the gates for ISPs to control what you see or how much you pay to see it. Imagine talking to a friend and getting excited about an awesome new website, only to find for you it doesn’t exist. Or one day getting a flyer in the mail that looks much like this:
You might think this is ridiculous, no ISP is going to ever do that, but this is already happening in Portugal.
Think about what if would be like if other key pieces of infrastructure were similarly controlled. Water that flowed more slowly out of the tap because you’d used more than 50 gallons that day. Or if you had to buy a different electricity package so you could plug in the PS4 or TV. When you think about the Internet as a utility, one that provides entertainment, facilitates better and more varied working conditions, innovates around jobs and industries, and enables free flow and communication of ideas, it’s not hard to see why Net Neutrality is ultimately so important.
Maybe it won’t happen. Perhaps Ajit Pai, Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, and AT&T are telling the truth. Perhaps the Internet could flourish without these protections. But it’s highly suspicious that it’s only those with a financial interest that are saying so, while many non-corporate individuals are saying otherwise.
The Internet is one of the largest advances in human history, up there with discovering flight and getting a person up on to the Moon. Like all momentous changes, it can be used for good things and it can be used for bad. This is the nature of things, but it isn’t up to ISPs and other third parties to decide how we use it. Their role is to facilitate, not dictate.
Stand up for your Internet. If you’re an American, contact your representative and tell them to do their job and fight for your rights as a citizen of the United States. This isn’t a partisan issue, this will affect all of us in exactly the same way. Do it now and join the Battle for the Net.