In what is becoming an all-too-common theme, big money and corporate interests continue to erode our democracy and influence government decisions that impact all of us. The latest legislation to take aim at the freedom of each and every one of us is focused on net neutrality. The internet as we know it is at stake! Instead of standing up for ordinary Americans, many politicians are focused on pleasing the internet service providers who have injected huge amounts of money into their election campaigns.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must allow equal access to all content regardless of the source, without favoring or blocking any websites or services. Lose net neutrality and ISPs would have the power to play favorites. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast would be able to deliver certain sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason they want. In fact, Comcast couldn’t even wait for Washington. Back in 2007, they were busted for meddling with their customer’s BitTorrent connection—a service that competed with its own video streaming service.
Who is against net neutrality?
The most obvious answer is the ISPs who stand to line their pockets from the loss of net neutrality. These corporate behemoths are unleashing hundreds of lobbyists on Washington to prevent the FCC from establishing rules that would preserve internet access for Americans. The politicians whose campaigns benefit financially from these ISPs are also being influenced by the industry’s lobbyists. To give you an idea of just how big a deal this is, Democrats and Republicans alike received over $8 million from the four major telecom companies in the 2014 election. That is nearly twice what the top five pharmaceutical groups spent in the same election.
And while the FCC is for net neutrality…
Several of the highest ranking officials at the FCC are deeply invested in the telecom companies they're supposed to be regulating. In fact, before Tom Wheeler became the current FCC chairman, he was president of the Cellular Telecom and Internet Association—the most powerful lobbying group of the wireless industry. Even more significant is that the majority of elected officials who we assume are making sure Mr. Wheeler and the FCC does its job have also received campaign funds from the telecom giants. Gross, isn’t it?
How could the internet change without net neutrality?
- Higher Costs: Depending on your ISP and the service plan you have, watching a YouTube video, for example, could suddenly require an additional fee.
- Slower Speeds: ISPs would have the ability to choose which sites and services are in the slow or fast lane. Comcast’s interference with BitTorrent is a perfect example.
- Less Innovation: The high barrier of entry would mean smaller companies and startups won’t have the same chance to succeed as major corporations. Ever heard of Facebook?
- Unequal Service: Fees imposed by ISPs could make it hard for smaller content providers to compete. For example, CNN can afford to be in the fast lane whereas your local news agency can’t.
What is net neutrality’s current status?
The internet’s fate currently rests in the hands of the FCC. President Obama recently suggested that the FCC reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This would essentially treat broadband like a communication service—such as the telephone industry. The FCC is considering a “hybrid” solution which would expand the FCC’s powers to regulate broadband while also allowing cable providers to charge more money for fast lanes.
How can citizens take action?
We think this is just one more reminder of how much we need to Get the Dough Out of Politics and make elected officials accountable to the people and not just financial backers. In the case of net neutrality, it’s not too late. Save The Internet and file a comment with the FCC and sign the Free Press petition urging the FCC to restore net neutrality. Join the millions who have spoken up already and are fighting to protect the freedom of the internet.