By now, it's pretty self-evident that I spend a lot of time blogging about issues that could have a direct, negative, impact on the Internet as we know it: SOPA (et al), PRISM, and the new Net Neutrality issues. To our credit, the collective will of the Internet has been heard to prevent, reform, or significantly alter all of these issues (PRISM is in progress) and Net Neutrality is no different.
But what is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies; but all that could change.
It ensures that the content that reaches our eyes and ears are not the content of the companies (political candidates, or activists) who can afford to pay the extra money to reach us. If you were concerned about Google's Social Search creating a "filter bubble" or promoting quality content based on number of times referenced - making it harder to find 'the little guy,' then an Internet without Net Neutrality should scare you.
An Internet without Net Neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can upgrade parts of their network specifically for customers who pay more for the privilege. While this may seem like an OK solution ("pay more - get more"), it fails to take into consideration that some Internet Service Providers have already stopped upgrading their circuits in certain locations to improve negotiating power with other Internet Service Providers. It fails to consider that while ISPs are not strictly limiting the bandwidth access of non-premium customers, by not upgrading access for everyone, technology advancement will force non-premium customers out of competition in a matter of years. Yay Moore's Law.
So while lobbyists on behalf of Internet Service Provider tycoons (like Comcast and Time Warner) say they wouldn't be creating an internet slow lane - where internet speeds are throttled for non-premium customers - the creation of an internet fast lane necessitates the creation of a throttled connection for others. With competition on the Internet being so fierce, throttled connections won't cut it, so new technology start ups would be forced to pay these premiums or they wouldn't survive; global household names like Google, Netflix, and Facebook would never have existed with the barrier to entry being set so high.
The estimated billions of people in India, China, and Africa expected to gain internet access over the next decade - the untold geniuses that surely lie within their economies, with their own start-up ideas, would never get the chance to invent the next Google. Untold technological, social, and economic advancements the world over would never exist without the collaboration of these billions of individuals - individuals who would not be able to reach an audience in the United States without paying the toll.
So what can you do about it?
Contact the Federal Communications Commission
Calling the FCC takes about two minutes on average, and e-mailing them takes about five minutes (seven minutes total); and if you're concerned that your voice is just going into the wind, consider that when thousands of websites and users campaigned to contact the FCC last Wednesday, our voice was heard. Last Thursday the FCC voted to extend the public comment section of the Net Neutrality proposal by four months to do more fact finding and attested that the "Title Two Common Carrier" solution was a possible alternative.
Tip: Press 1, 4, and 0 to talk to a representative and tell them "I want the FCC to reclassify ISPs as Title Two Common Carriers."
Petition to Have Wheeler Removed
Let's face it, having a former telecon giant as the chairman of the governing body of telecommunications is a recipe for disaster. It's bad enough that corporate interests can buy votes - let's at least pretend to have some separation between corporations and government. Petition the White House to remove Wheeler from office. It seriously takes thirty seconds if you already have the account.
There are various ways to get involved in saving the internet. First is by joining organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the Internet Defense League by subscribing to their mailing list to remain informed on current issues, or by contributing financially.
Another is by spreading the word. Blogging about the issues and how they affect you, or sharing posts about the issue with your friends to raise awareness is an important step to ensure that as many people are aware of the issue as possible.
The last step is to let your voice be heard by hitting them where it hurts: their votes (the elections are soon) and their pocket books (Leaving greedy ISPs). Stop voting along party lines and start voting intelligently - maybe if less than 90% of congressmen get reelected they'll actually act like they work for us and have consequences to their actions.
All together, these actions would take you less than fifteen minutes. Geico says you can save fifteen percent or more in fifteen minutes - well you could help save the Internet in that amount of time instead. Then maybe, just maybe, people won't have to blog about these silly things anymore.