Net neutrality is on the chopping block, and if this doesn't scare you because you either A) Don't really know what it is, or B) Heard about it the last time it was under attack but stopped worrying about it because it pulled through, then you better steel your nerves real fast, because as of tomorrow, our access to a free internet might be permanently blocked.
The last time net neutrality was on the docket was in 2015, when the Open Internet Order reclassified the internet as a utility, like plumbing and electricity, under Title II of the Communications Act. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon don't like this because they think it ensures "price regulation." They prefer that companies like theirs have the freedom to charge whatever they want, which they call "price discrimination."
In November, FCC chair Ajit Pai announced his new plan, which would require the federal government to "stop micromanaging the internet," and instead have the FCC "require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that customers can buy the service plan that's best for them." Translated into English: Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other broadband companies would force you to buy their plan, and, depending on how much you want to pay, either allow you to access the "Internet Fastlane" or stick you with slow service that'll make the days of your AOL-dial-up connection seem like a golden age. The plan is scheduled for a vote in the Senate tomorrow.
So apart from having to pay more for your internet, or pay less but have less access to the websites you want, what else would happen in a world without net neutrality? Here are a few scenarios from the ACLU:
1. Censorship - Service providers can block or slow down access to websites they don't like.
2. No User Choice - Service providers will mandate the services and equipment you have to purchase for internet access, and this could mean losing access to sites you like because they don't have a deal with the service provider.
3. Banned Chat Rooms - Need help mining for BitCoins from that chat room you depend on? You may have to charge just to get in to the chat room.
4. Online Gamer Restrictions - Gamers would be charged access to their favorite games in addition to the broadband fees they have to pay, and possibly even their chat rooms afterwards. This would wreak havoc among gamers and their communities.
5. Expensive Downloads and Podcasting - You'll have to pay more upon buying or renting TV shows, movies, and albums from services like iTunes.
More than anything, a world without net neutrality is, more than anything, a world with limited access to free speech and expression. The next generation of creatives would be denied the chance to establish themselves and launch their careers. Issa Rae, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer got to where they are today because they started out on YouTube, and TV would be poorer without Insecure and Broad City. What would removing the free internet do to the young people who want to follow in their footsteps?
What would it do to activists and the work they do? Without free access to Twitter and social media, would #blacklivesmatter and #metoo be household phrases? Would we know exactly where and when to show up to protest Donald Trump's policies? What would happen to smaller websites and startups? What would happen to this website that you're reading right now? In a world where we all have to pay for internet access, who's to say?
Many websites have protested these proposals: yesterday, Reddit, Kickstarter and other websites launched a campaign to "break the internet" to get their users to call their members of Congress. Since then, nearly forty Senators have asked Pai to postpone tomorrow's vote. Throughout this battle, Pai has been unresponsive, with his office calling his detractors "desperate," and claiming his plan will "restore internet freedom."
The time is now for your voice to be heard. Go to Battleforthenet.com and voice your complaints. It will take you on an autodial so you can contact your representatives (you can also use Savetheinternet.com for this same thing.) Here is another number you can call below. We do not have a moment to waste. The survival of the internet as we know it is at stake.
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