The single greatest communications technology we have ever produced is about to be hijacked by the super rich. Unless enough people stand up and fight to protect Net Neutrality, the Internet will become yet another tool to enhance the wealth of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the leadership of Tom Wheelerーwho before assuming the title was a lobbyist for both the cable and telecom industriesーrecently released a proposal which, if enacted, would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge media companies (e.g. Netflix, Hulu) extra fees for preferential services.
But why exactly are these new fees important? Why should they matter to you and me?
These arbitrarily-added charges essentially mean that sites trying to reach consumers will soon have no choice but to begin charging for access to their information, effectively turning the Internet into the exclusive domain of those wealthy enough to pay. In the words of media reform group Free Press, to give "the green light to pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes."
(for a visualization of what this future Internet might look like, click here --> https://imgur.com/a/AumMd#5)
In a recent interview on Democracy Now, former Commissioner and longest-serving member of the FCC, Michael Copps, described the new proposals as a dire threat to Internet equality:
"This is all about making sure that the Internet, which is the most transformative communications technology in all of history, really serves the people and consumers, and we are playing very fast and very loose with it right now and turning it into the playground of the few... turning it over to big companies, consolidated companies, that are able to exact tolls for content producers and their friends and the people who can afford to pay for those fast lanes. So... what you’re really seeing here is kind of a transformation of the Internet where 1 percent get the fast lanes and the 99 percent get the slow lanes. That’s not what the potential and the promise of the Internet was...
What I really want people to realize is that this isn’t just about speeds and gadgetry and gimmicks. This goes to the heart of small-d democracy. If we’re going to give a company such tremendous power over distribution and content to slow down news, or maybe saying, "We don’t like that advocacy cause or that good government cause over here...we’re going to block that," then we have taken this tool that could give us a wonderful new town square of democracy paved with broadband bricks and turned it into the same old same old that we have right now. And given the problems this country has right now, we can’t afford to go down that road. We need an informed public. We need open news...journalism, that these companies are also limiting."
If we want to keep the internet a democracy, and not a plutocracy, the time to do so is now. It is our responsibility to future generations to keep this amazing tool in the hands of the people, instead of in the already bulging pockets of America's super rich.
Learn more about Net Neutrality and the cause at sites like the ones below, and add your voice to the Free Press petition!
Democracy Now! - http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/25/internet_for_the_1_percent_new
The Guardian - http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/24/fcc-net-neutrality-tom-wheeler-stop-rules
Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/04/23/the-fcc-is-planning-new-net-neutrality-...
Update - We've tipped! Thanks to all who supported, and a big shout out to the technology subreddit for their support and general awesomeness