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Why Net Neutrality is a big deal and what you can do to fight it

Over the past couple of days you might have caught wind of the term ‘Net Neutrality’ going around.

Whether on Twitter or frantically spammed onto you by your conspiracy theorist friend, the buzzword seems to have come up out of nowhere. That’s because this past Tuesday the Federal Communications Commission announced they were planning to scrap it.

F.C.C. chairman Ajit Pai spoke to the New York Times about doing away with the 2015 Obama regulation and his reasoning behind it saying:

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet, instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

Yet, judging by the sense of urgency in people’s response to the FCC’s proposal, it seems to be deeper than simply buying a service plan for the internet.

That’s because it is.

Net neutrality prohibits internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to certain content and mandates internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to provide equal access to the internet. When all data has to be created equally, it ensures that everyone can load their content at the same speed.

So when you switch from binge watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO Go to catching the game on NBA League Pass the stream works just as quickly. One does not compromise the other.

What the FCC is proposing is an “open market” approach which allows competitive pricing for internet services. In a market unregulated by net neutrality, providers can charge tech companies a premium to send content to consumers more quickly.

For example, with how much Netflix is pulling in, Verizon could easily up the price on them and they’d have no choice but to comply simply because they rely on networks like AT&T and Verizon to carry their content to users. Or Comcast may see a company like Facebook —  which has a billion plus subscribers —  and decide to make them pay a premium simply because they could.

It’s no coincidence that the only people advocating overturning net neutrality are the established ISP’s — the one’s who govern the internet’s point of entry.

The FCC’s push has inspired tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, and Netflix to join together in opposition of the the new proposal. Their efforts are supported by The Internet Association as well, who says that dismantling the rules,

“will create significant uncertainty in the market and upset the careful balance that has led to the current virtuous circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem.”

While Pai is correct in that net neutrality stifles the sector’s economic possibilities — total investment in broadband fell 5.6% between 2014 and 2016.  The reality of startups surviving in this sector this late in the game is unrealistic. Doing away with net neutrality is capitalism 101 but that’s the issue.

If these regulations were dismantled, service providers would succumb to competition, making non-partnered websites or data that’s not advantageous to their agenda difficult—or impossible—to access.

The internet is a service, a commonplace for information, not a taxed good.

The Verge makes a great point, stating that “roughly 78 percent of Americans have either no high-speed access or just one provider.” So if your provider decides not to give full capabilities to your favorite site, you’re caught in the crossfire.

The internet should not be another case of ‘let the best man win’. Like education, there are certain services where the highest quality should be made available to all and access to the internet and information is one of them.

Chairman Pai first unveiled his plan to industry lobbyists in April 2017 and was approved to have the proposal moved forward in May, but received tens of millions of comments from internet users who want to keep the protections in place.

The FCC will vote on his Net Neutrality-killing plan on Dec. 14.

Click here to voice your complaint and to speak against this plan and don’t forget to tell your members of Congress to condemn Pai’s attack on the open internet.