Until a couple of weeks ago, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast had to treat all content on the Internet equally. That means, if your niece wanted to post a home video of her cat on the family website and if a Super Bowl sponsor wanted to preview its new commercial on YouTube, the ISPs couldn’t discriminate.
Internet Neutrality is Dead
Internet neutrality is dead and too few people even know what that is. How could they? Those who benefit from its demise would have to tell them.
Internet neutrality “is everything we know and love about the way the Internet has always worked,” said Shana Heinricy of the Media Literacy Project (MLP) in Albuquerque, NM.
On January 14, 2014, a U.S. Federal Appeals Court killed it.
The problem seems to have started in 2002 when the FCC used the wrong words and classified cable broadband as an “information service” rather than a “common carrier.” What this means, according to MLP staffer, Alanna Offield, is that “the Internet isn’t classified as a platform for free speech.”
So Verizon told the court that having to treat all content equally was a violation of their speech. And they won.
“[This] ruling flies in the face of intellectual freedom.…” wrote Barbara Stripling on wired.com. “An open internet is essential to our nation’s educational achievement, freedom of speech, and economic growth.”
The Implications are Mind-boggling
Your ISP will soon begin telling you they are giving you the moon (and that they are defenders of net neutrality) at the same time as they begin slowing and blocking the content of anyone and everyone they don’t like, from small businesses they see as “competitors” to political candidates whose platforms conflict with their big business interests.
Of course, you will be able to pay for faster Internet. But if your niece can’t pay, her cat videos are toast.
Craig Aaron, of Free Press, says: “… the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV — where they pick and choose the channels for you. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.”
In other words, instead of you – or your business or your favorite nonprofit – having the choice of what to do, say and see on the open internet, the ISPs will choose for you.
Aaron also says, “This could be the end of the Internet as we know it. But it doesn’t have to be…. The ruling leaves the door wide open to a better approach. The FCC could make all this go away by simply reading the law correctly and reclaiming the authority it already has to protect Internet users for good.
“There will be serious pushback from the most powerful phone and cable companies (and an array of hired guns and front groups)…. But the FCC has … the power to resuscitate Net Neutrality.”
Changing the classification of the open internet so that it is covered as free speech is politically tough but legally clear. If it is going to happen, Aaron says, “the millions of people who have fought for Net Neutrality — [as well as those who have] rallied against Web-censorship… and the NSA’s unchecked spying and surveillance — must rise up like never before.”
If you can’t rise up, at least talk to your niece. Maybe she can.
To learn more and hear more about what you can do, listen to this January 22 interview with Shana Heinricy and Alanna Offield on Inclusion Radio.
Sign the petition to the FCC at FreePress.net. Watch Steven Colbert change his reaction to net neutrality and see his interview with Tim Wu, the Columbia professor who came up with the term.
Then pass it on (while you can).
Jody Alyn is an organizational consultant and inclusion strategist. Her clients include small to mid-sized businesses, nonprofits, public entities and community collaborations whose operations will be affected by this ruling.
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