Monday, June 9, 2014

Why We Need to Protect Net Neutrality

From Daily Tech
Do you have family or friends living in disparate parts of the country, or world?  If you do you probably spend some time uploading or viewing photos on Facebook to keep up with them, and keep them posted on your goings on.  Do you have some sort of desk job?  Then you probably rely on ubiquitous access to e-mail so that you can communicate with clients, coworkers, managers, etc.  Do you like watching movies and television shows?  Likely you regularly stream movies and shows relatively seamlessly from Hulu, Netflix, or Youtube.  Do you vote?  Voters rely heavily on what they can find out about candidates from Google searches so they can make an informed decision.  Are you an activist?  If you are then you've probably helped to organize actions via social media.  How about business owners?  Let's say you run a small grocery store.  You probably keep your payroll costs down by enrolling your employees in a direct deposit program.
Each of these activities has two things in common.  Firstly, each of these activities constitute a broad range of actions we take every day to ensure that we can effectively participate in the economy, in political life, and in cultural life.  Each of these things are the things we do that allow us to participate in our society and share in a common culture.  Each of these activities are that allow us to be productive and active citizens.

Secondly, each of these activities, is utterly dependent on our ability to access the internet equally regardless of any racial, cultural, ethnic, cultural, political, religious, or social differences.  As long as you can afford a monthly subscription fee you have the same amount of access to the internet as any other individual, group, organization, company, or government.  There is a name for this concept of open networks.  It's known as 'net neutrality.'  The ACLU defines it thusly: "Network neutrality means applying well-established "common carrier" rules to the Internet in order to preserve its freedom and openness. Common carriage prohibits the owner of a network, that holds itself out to all-comers, from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data (except for legitimate network management purposes such as easing congestion or blocking spam)."  In other words, internet providers can't give preferential treatment to some customers over others by slowing down or speeding up access for a fee.  Rules that are currently being proposed by the Federal Communications Commission would allow for internet providers to do just that.  John Oliver recently did a hilarious job of explaining the issue here: 

For a more sober explanation of all of this check out this article from The Nation, or this article from the New York Times.  

The proposals currently under consideration by the FCC would effectively end net neutrality as we know it.  Fortunately, the FCC is allowing for an open commenting period (mentioned above by John Oliver) in which you can be heard.  You can go here to make your comment.  Their website was already crashed once after John Oliver's monologue, let's keep crashing it until they get the message that we all value and deserve and open internet.  

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