Do you have an idea that you want to develop? Do you fancy yourself an entrepreneur? Good for you! Your future is bright! Here in the Land of the Free, we are fortunate to be able to access information with ease. Just think of the treasure trove of help you can find with your budding business on the internet! But wait! Maybe not! Have you heard of Net Neutrality? Sounds boring? Well, stop snoring and take notice! The business you save may be your own!
Net Neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs)—think of companies like Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T, and more—will provide the same access to an open internet, no matter the status of an individual. So when you question the almighty Google from your phone, you get the same results as some big shot company executive from her corner office. That sounds like a good idea for a variety of reasons. For example, if you really are trying to start your own business, the internet is a great place to advertise and sell your products or services. If you are a social activist, the internet gives you a platform to organize and communicate. These notions are dependent on a vital and open internet.
We currently have strong net neutrality protections here in the United States. In 2015, thanks to the strong support of millions of net neutrality activists, the Obama administration was able to draft net neutrality regulations, getting the ISPs classified as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act. This allowed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to draft strong regulations protecting access to the internet. Now, however, these regulations are under attack, led by the current administrations FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. A vote by the FCC to rescind these regulations are currently scheduled for December 14. The Democrats have asked for a delay in the vote, but the FCC has denied that request.
What would happen if these protections are rescinded? Your internet access may begin to look more and more like your cable TV access. That means you may have different packages from which to choose, with each package providing you a different level of access to the internet. Additionally, an ISP may determine the speed at which the content is delivered. For example, the more you pay, the faster you play.
It is also critical to remember that in many areas of the US, ISP providers may not even exist. According to Dr. Brian Whitacre of Oklahoma State University, just over ½ (55%) of people living in rural areas of the United States can access internet speeds considered to be broadband! This percentage suggests there aren’t a heck of a lot of ISPs out there in rural America. If net neutrality goes out the window, and ISPs can dictate access, who is the competition in rural America? These folks will have to simply take what they are offered.
Proponents of rescinding the net neutrality regulations, AT&T being one of the most notable, indicate the current regulations hinders ISPs investments in innovation. Yet the evidence we see around us each day is that technology is improving. This argument seems to be lame when compared to the stifling effect rescinding can have on budding entrepreneurs, start-up businesses, activists, and others in dorm rooms and garages, dreaming big dreams and making great strides, thanks to our open internet.
What You Can Do
There is a wide variety of options for people like you—people who want to save net neutrality and save our internet—the first being signing this petition: Save the Internet. Save the Internet is an online petition with one simple goal: protecting our rights and providing every person that browses the internet equal access to every site that they browse. You can also even donate to their cause here.
You can call your senator by using this simple tool: Call My Congress. It will help you find all of the contact information of all of your elected officials. You must use it to urge your representatives and senators to vote net neutrality.
The truth is, we have almost no time left. The vote in the FCC is today, so we must act now. Now is our time to be heard before it’s too late.