Net neutrality has been in the news a lot recently. You’ve heard the pros and the cons or maybe you’re not even sure what it is but- it must be preserved.
Simply put, net neutrality is the idea that all content on the internet should be treated equally. Your sister in law’s blog about her doll collection should download just as quickly as your Amazon suggested buying page.
And at the moment, it does. Obviously Amazon has deeper pockets than your sister in law but there is no for sale fast lane on the internet. Not yet.
The Big Telecom Companies
Most consumers get their internet service from a handful of providers, AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, and Verizon. Nearly everyone has a horror story about these companies and their crappy service.
Comcast and Time Warner are legendary for it and were voted two of the most hated companies in America. And they’re trying to merge! It’s like if Walmart and Halliburton merged. Evil’s final form.
Because there is so little choice, these big companies have a strangle hold on internet service. More than 77% of Americans have no choice in ISP, there is only one in their area. Even if you can switch, it’s like moving out of a cave and into a tent. Not really the difference you were looking to make.
With net neutrality in place, those companies only job is to move the data. Not to choose what data they give higher priority to. What they would like their job to be is to decide which data moves faster, or chillingly, doesn’t move at all.
Imagine the consequences of that. There has been a lot of back lash against the news that Comcast and Time Warner could merge. If there was no net neutrality in place, both companies could slow or block websites detailing why this merger is a bad thing.
So you don’t get to read an article arguing that it’s bad enough there are so few ISP’s as it is and decide for yourself if you agree or disagree. Those companies have already decided not to give you access to that information. Sure you can find it places other than the net but I get the vast majority of my news on-line. Many of us do.
These big telecoms are spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to eviscerate net neutrality. So, much like everything else in America, the sanctity of the internet may be for sale to the highest bidder.
The Case For Net Neutrality
In 2013 Time Warner and CBS had a dispute over how much Time Warner could charge CBS to broadcast their content. For a month, CBS was blacked out to Time Warner customers. Without net neutrality, the same could happen on the internet.
Imagine if your ISP had a similar dispute with Amazon. The ISP wants Amazon to pay for “fast lane “service. Amazon refuses. So no Amazon for you! Your ISP has blocked the site.
What if Comcast came out with their own version of Google Maps? Given their shitty service it would probably be a really terrible map with the street names wrong but without net neutrality, it will be your only option. Comcast has blocked your access to Google maps. Not only that, but Comcast could charge you for access to their sub par maps. Better buy a compass.
ISP’s could block or slow sites that use encrypted data. Comcast actually did do this in 2007 when it was busted throttling BitTorrent traffic. What if this had been the case for Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who used encrypted data to communicate? We’d never know our own government has engaged in mass surveillance on a global scale and considers the average citizen an enemy of the state.
For those who argue that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, that is a child’s argument. Go ahead and give out your social security number, credit score, salary and medical records. I have the right to keep those things private, we all do.
ISP’s could engage in political censorship. In 2007 AT&T was streaming a Pearl Jam concert. They cut off the sound when Eddie Veddar criticized George Bush. In 2005, Telus, A Canadian telecom company cut off subscriber access to a web site run by workers who were striking against Telus.
You’ll Pay More For “Tiered” Service
As things stand, internet service is one price. If we lose net neutrality, then you may have to pay more for faster service. You won’t be getting any more for what you pay now but you will certainly get less if you can’t afford to pay for “top tier” service.
The Revolution Won’t Be Televised It Will Be Blogged and Tweeted
Mohamed Bouzizi was a Tunisian fruit seller who immolated himself in December 2010 as a protest against constant harassment by petty government thugs. The anger over his sacrifice is widely acknowledged as having brought about the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, and with having sparked off the wider “Arab Spring.”
When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.Tweet This
These revolutions saw brutal dictators who had held power for decades, fleeing for their lives. The protests were organized and spread via social media.
There are anonymous bloggers in every corner of the world who write about religious oppression, human trafficking, narco/government corruption, and other human rights abuses that would make you vomit.
These people cannot work in the light of day. They will be jailed, tortured and executed. Some of them already have been. They depend on an internet that is open, affordable and accessible to help foster change in the world.
But… But… Innovation
Opponents of net neutrality love this argument. They claim that any regulation would hamper innovation. So let’s look at an example. Netflix has deep pockets so they could pay for a high speed lane for their service. Which they would then pass on to the consumer.
What if in a few years a new, better version of Netlix appeared? But they were a small start up, founded in that most beloved mythical place of so many great innovators, someone’s garage. The service, the content are better than what Netflix currently offers. Great, you think. Sign me up! Only you can’t sign up. They don’t have the money that Netflix has so they can’t afford to pay the toll on the fast lane.
So you’re stuck with the same, now mediocre product that you’ve had for years. No innovation without paying the toll.
Ted Cruz Is Against It
Do you need any reason other than that? Should I have saved myself the research and just typed that line and dropped the mic? The biggest wanker in a crowded field with the most punchable face in politics is against it. Anything he hates is probably a good thing for thinking, compassionate, rational people who’ve read more books than just the Cliff Notes version of the bible.
House of Cards
Indulge me. Season three will probably come out in February 2015 and if the FCC fucks with my enjoyment of the continuing adventures of Francis Underwood, I will channel him up and they will feel our collective wrath.
What Is Being Done and What You Can Do
By September of 2014 the FCC had received 3.7 million comments on preserving net neutrality. Comment had been open for five months and had to be extended, due ironically, to frequent issues with the FCC’s website. The more intrepid commenters perhaps delivered their comments via window brick to denote priority.
This was, by a wide margin, the most commented on topic in FCC history. The second highest being Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during her Super Bowl Half Time Show. So more Americans love unfettered Porn Hub access than Puritans hate nip slips. Gawd bless America. That stat makes me feel like a god damn patriot.
Earlier this year President Obama spoke out in favor of net neutralty. He urged the FCC to reclassify broad band as a Title II common carrier. This classification would allow the FCC to protect net neutrality by regulating against paid prioritization.
Here is what you can do. Visit the ACLU’s website and send your comments to the FCC. 3.7 million and counting. The ACLU has long been the vanguard of protecting free speech and civil liberites. Send your comments through their link and perhaps make a donation to them when you visit.
We all have a stake in this. I know many of you have small and not so small web based businesses. We bring everything we do at LMM to you over the web and we don’t have Jeff Bezos type money to make sure that you can still access our content each day.
This is an issue of prime importance. For us, for you, for the human rights bloggers trying to let the world know about the atrocities they fight against and risk their lives for every time they post. Let the FCC know that you demand they protect net neutrality.