This morning I visited three web pages – Reddit, the Swedish public radio site, and a privately-run message board for bicycle enthusiasts in New York City. All sites loaded at comparable speeds. Because I live in the United States, this might soon be a thing of the past.
Tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Rules, better known as net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that your internet access provider must treat all content on the internet equally. It prevents cable companies from blocking sites or prioritizing faster access to websites that have paid extra.
The FCC is made up of five members and is currently chaired by Trump appointee Ajit Pai. Since Pai outlined his goal to dismantle the open internet earlier this year, there has been a public outcry resulting in 23 million comments (of which 98.5 percent of unique comments oppose the repeal plan) and denouncements from his fellow FCC members.
What’s at stake? Your right to freedom of expression and access to information. If a majority of the FCC votes for gutting net neutrality, your internet risks being limited to websites belonging to companies that can afford to pay off the cable companies to prioritize their content. This, in turn, limits your access to information to what these specific websites offer, and your online speech to their publishing and communication platforms. In one FCC vote, we could see the internet reduced to social media giants and shopping websites, and we could lose equal access to all the little random, odd corners that make the internet the magical (and weird) place it is today.
But all is not yet lost. The FCC must still answer to the US Congress, so if you’re in the United States head over to Battle for the Net and reach out now. Tell your representatives that you reject allowing internet access providers to censor or choose what websites we can easily access before tomorrow’s FCC vote.