The Daily Vigil, 7/12/17: The Battle for Net Neutrality
Today we’ve got a single-topic Vigil again, and that’s because this topic is too important to shorten. We’re talking about Net Neutrality, a cornerstone of our internet, which is currently under attack. Buckle up, buckaroos.
What Is Net Neutrality: Net Neutrality, simply put, is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon ought to treat all websites equally. By that we mean that all websites ought to load at the same speed, your speed shouldn’t be arbitrarily slowed down, and you shouldn’t have to pay more to access certain content. This may all seem quite obvious, but there are plenty of people out there who stand to make a lot of money by breaking these standards of non-preferential treatment.
Why Net Neutrality Matters: See, if Comcast or Time Warner has the ability to slow down the speeds at which certain web pages load, they can kill competition. How long do you usually wait before leaving a webpage that isn’t loading properly? Yeah, thought so. Now imagine that AT&T has the capacity to slow down a site that is critical of AT&T practices. Imagine if Verizon can now slow down the campaign web page of a candidate who wants to re-enact strong Neutrality laws- but the page of a pro-Verizon candidate loads at lightning speeds. After enough people get frustrated, they stop going to those pages altogether, they drop in Google’s rankings, so less people see them… its a feedback loop that kills voices that are critical to the industry, and it’s anathema to free speech. There are some weak-ass arguments people make in favor of gutting Neutrality rules, but they all boil down to “Me or someone I know stands to make metric buttloads of cash if we can gut Neutrality rules”.
Didn’t You Say We Could Just Pay More for Faster Speeds?: I sure did! And if you’ve got the cash, you could probably afford the extra monthly charge and not notice any disruption. But I’m not worried about you if you can afford that kind of expense (no offense). I’m worried about the people who can’t afford the extra fees that would be enacted, and thus have entire sections of the net effectively closed off from them. This is of course besides the fact that charging people for effective access to certain parts of the internet is fucking bullshit and shouldn’t be done to anyone, regardless of whether you have the money to afford it. There’s no reason for these extra fees besides unbridled greed, and ISPs don’t need any more profit than they’re already making. And its not like their Customer Service Departments are going to be seeing any of that coin, it’s going straight to the Board of Directors.
Doesn’t the Government Protect Us From This?: It used to, but then President Trump (ugh) appointed a man named Ajit Pai to head the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission. This is the government body that handles matters like these, and unfortunately, Ajit couldn’t be happier to scrap Net Neutrality rules. He’s made claims like “The Title II rules are preventing ISPs from investing in building new infrastructure”, and “Well we don’t see evidence ofISPs throttling one website over another right now, so we’re not worried about it”.
This is, of course, the same fucking bullshit that I mentioned above. First, ISPs aren’t holding back on infrastructure projects because of Title II, they’re holding back because they’re stingy and don’t want to spend money providing a better product if they’re already rolling in the cheddar. Second, Mr. Pai doesn’t see evidence of throttling because throttling is still illegal! Of course he wouldn’t see evidence of throttling, and its his own agency that’s preventing it from happening (for the moment, anyway).
How We Fight Back: It should come as no surprise that a man that Trump appointed favors profits over people, but there are still things we can do to save Net Neutrality. As always, you can (and should) call your Representatives and Senators on this issue. You can also leave a comment on the FCC’s website. This page does a good job explaining how, because the FCC itself hasn’t made the process very user-friendly. There are also petitions you can sign, and while petitions usually rank toward the bottom of the food chain as far as how best to influence Washington, this is a dogpile situation where every tool we have needs to be used.
This is an issue at the very core of our Democracy, because for better or worse, so much of our lives are online now. There cannot be a group of people who are effectively second-class citizens on the net. Please, take the time out of your day and let the FCC and Congress know that you want the strong supports for Net Neutrality that we already have in place; that you support Title II and oppose Pai’s efforts to gut our free speech.