We all hear about countries like Russia, China and North Korea not having access to certain websites like Facebook, or for North Korea, the Internet itself. What would it be like if we, too, didn't have access to certain websites or information? Or if certain websites loaded slower than others, and only some information was easy to find? It's hard to imagine because as it stands our Internet is open and protected under the rules of Net Neutrality. We have the ability to find the information we require with a simple google search. Well, this could change, and fast. The new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is not a fan of Net Neutrality and wants to see its rules and regulations change.
What is Net Neutrality?
The Internet as we know it know, is protected under the Open Internet Act. That breaks down into three key rules:
No Blocking - A broadband provider can't block lawful content or applications.
No Throttling - This prohibits broadband providers from slowing down specific applications or services, a practice known as throttling.
No Paid Prioritization - A broadband provider cannot accept fees for favored treatment. This rule prohibits Internet "fast lanes" and "slow lanes."
We are protected by these regulations so we reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an Open Internet today and into the future. Net neutrality requires service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, Spectrum (formerly known as Time Warner) to charge equal fees and regulate equal speeds for all data usage.
Why do you need to know this?
This information is important because our Internet is what keeps us connected and informed. On January 23, Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new FCC Chairman. Ajit Pai is not a fan of Net Neutrality and wants to get rid of it. Without these policies, a telecom company, like Pai’s former employer, Verizon, would be allowed to block websites at its discretion or allow providers to create "fast lanes" for preferred sites, while other internet destinations lag within slower connections.
What Would This Mean For you?
In an extreme way this could mean another wall, not a physical one but a virtual one, preventing information harmful to government interests from entering the country. Imagine an Internet where access to information regarding climate change was drastically more difficult to access or not accessible at all. Or even scarier, imagine political figures paying for only favorable information to be available. At any time, that idea is fundamentally corrupt, but it becomes especially true during election cycles.
Or maybe you own an e-commerce website, or you're a blogger, or write for a newspaper, or simply work online and your website loading times are being manipulated, ultimately affecting your ad revenue or sales. Are you a student looking for accurate information for a project? What if that information was non-existent? Netflix and Chill, or instead Netflix and buffering.. Or what if you couldn't access that information simply because of your IP address? in 2007, Comcast was caught deliberately slowing internet users’ access to torrent sites, which propelled a lot of these regulations to be created. That had legislative support at the time, but if our government representatives have changed their minds in the wake of a new administration, that may result in different rulings. These are just a small representations of how our leadership can be destructive to all of the amazing ways we inform ourselves everyday using the internet, and it's important that we stay informed on how we can safeguard the free flow of information.
For the record, here is a study showing Internet restrictions in 65 countries. I'll let you make your own assumptions.
Study Sourced: The Washington Post
Action: What can be done right now?
With so many uprisings in the news, this isn't at the forefront of the conversation, yet! Let's change that. Stay informed and keep Ajit Pai and his accomplices in your political conversations. Read up about Net Neutrality and know the facts.
Contact the FCC with your comments and concerns to tell them why you don't want regulations on Net Neutrality to be changed. Be sure to let them know what this would mean to you and to Americans all over the world. You can contact them here.
The Internet is not only important, it is vital. We all use the Internet and have the right to uncensored information about our history, climate change, un-biased news and the freaking truth! Duh!
Keep on the look out for Ajit Pai and any new bills he is authoring or sponsoring.