For a large majority of people, the term “net neutrality” doesn’t really mean much. It’s probably something you’ve heard mentioned a few times over the past year, but you likely dismissed it for sounding too technical or too boring or too… virtual. So, I’m going to ask you to think of it in a different way. Instead of saying net neutrality, I want you to say “corporate censorship.”
Really say it. Say it out loud. Make it real.
Because that’s what the elimination of net neutrality really boils down to. Without it, the small handful of internet providers in the country will be able to legally throttle internet speeds. If you want people to be able to access your website, you’re going to have to pay to play. Just a small business starting out? An all-volunteer academic resource? A personal blog? Welcome to the slow lane.
Without net neutrality there would likely have never been an eBay. No Amazon. No Wikipedia. No Etsy. At their inception, none of these companies would have been able to afford to pay Comcast or Verizon the fees they’re proposing in order for their site to be accessible.
If you’ve never experienced it before, throttled internet is difficult to comprehend. I lived in China for nearly six years, a country whose own government routinely throttles the internet. If it was a sensitive date (e.g. June 4) or a time when officials were in Beijing to convene or sometimes just because an incident resulted in scrutiny from the international press, the government would intentionally slow the web to a crawl. As a companion action to outright blocking sites, this served as a convenient form of censorship via denial of service.
Working as the Web Editor for a magazine, this often made it impossible to do my job. “Sorry guys, we just can’t internet today,” was a phrase spoken more times than I can count. Part of my decision to leave Beijing and move back to America was related to this web sabotage. Now, to find out this could soon be a reality here as well, I’m supremely disappointed. More than disappointed, actually. I’m mad. Furious.
You don’t have to be web-savvy to care about the cause. Because this really is about more than the web, it’s about control. If the FCC eliminates net neutrality, then corporations will not only control the speed of the internet, they’ll control what information you’re given access to. They’ll be able to set the price tag so high that only those with the deepest pockets will have websites that load quickly and smoothly. Without net neutrality, the internet will effectively become a class system.
Get involved. Your freedom of speech may very well depend on it.