Don’t you hate when you have to wait for a page to load? As the minutes tick by, you check your internet connection, stop and reload the page, then open a new tab to start again. When that website refuses to load, it’s not yourself that you should blame; instead, this is the reality we would face if we lost net neutrality.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle which allows us to communicate freely by protecting free speech. Simultaneously, it prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from controlling what we see and do online. Without it, cable and phone companies would be able to control which content to interfere with, which to block, and which sites to speed up or slow down.
Why is it important?
Imagine all those long nights you spend binge watching YouTube and reading posts on Reddit; I know I do. But I never realized how much I used the internet until my high school introduced it as our source for everything. Pretty soon, we were using iPads in class for research projects and teachers were having us look up resources on our phones. I remember them repeating to us that the sources must be credible to count. Now imagine a world in which students have to censor their opinions because all they can find are censored resources online.
Not only is the internet an invaluable search tool, it also what is giving people of color a voice in the fight for social justice. Not all communities have equal access to the internet, so treating it as a privileged right instead of a public utility is discriminating against a majority of minorities. Racism is bad enough without allowing for misrepresented people of color a means to fight back. This would affect activists ability to organize protests or a movement, such as this one, to save what the internet has and should represent.
Why is this happening?
Net neutrality has always existed and it’s what makes the internet, the internet. Net neutrality has also faced some big opponents in the past, and won in 2015 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled to keep the internet free and open. However, now that we in are the Trump era, Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai is trying to give control of the internet back to the same phone and cable companies who are trying to destroy net neutrality. And FCC agreed in a vote on May 18 to let it pass.
What is happening now?
July 12th marks the first step in the fight against net neutrality rollback organized by the pro-neutrality group Fight for the Future. The battle for the internet has already begun and several of the world’s biggest internet companies are rallying to show their support. Even the founder of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, released a short video calling for action in defense of net neutrality. This is a historic day of action, but will it be enough?
What can you do?
Keep an eye out for the banners and pop-ups on several sites advertising net neutrality. And click on them. They will most likely take you to sites where you can send a letter to the FCC or Congress. Better yet, if you or someone you know has a website or app that wants to advertise net neutrality, create an alert or push notification to notify your users.
When I think about where I would be without the internet, I surely would not be writing this article or reading others like it. The countless times I have used social media to express myself might not even let me have a voice anymore. But your voice still counts; do your part, and let it be heard.