Written by Steven A. Sigmond and Juliette Sigmond
Today is Net Neutrality Day. You have no doubt already seen reminders of the debate cropping up in hashtags and banners throughout your daily online activities, so you likely already know that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed to repeal the rules that ensure freedom of speech and information on the internet.
There’s a good reason for the sheer volume of this collective call to action. Google, Twitter, Netflix… all of these websites and more will be negatively impacted if we allow the FCC to get rid of Net Neutrality. But more importantly, so will everyday Americans like you and I.
Net Neutrality prevents ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) from hindering or manipulating the material you view online. Without it, they would be free to do things like blocking or slowing down websites and apps that compete with their own products or promote messages with which they don’t agree.
Here’s an example I’m sure many of us will find relevant: enjoy binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and Hulu? Well, your ability to conveniently do that is in jeopardy. Many of the most powerful ISPs–Comcast and Time Warner, for instance–also provide cable, so they certainly have incentive to make online streaming less of a viable alternative. Slowing down websites like Netflix, or hiking up the price of access to them, would almost definitely be profitable for these corporations. Net Neutrality is the only thing preventing them from doing it.
If you’re thinking, If my Internet Service Provider did that I would just switch to a different one, then think again. Because of high costs and monopolizing, most Americans have a very small handful of broadband providers available to them, if that. All it takes for us to be completely out of options is for one ISP to start misusing their control and one or two others to follow suit in order to keep up.
So far, the major ISPs’ response to concerns that they would misuse their control seems to come down to, but we promise not to do that. This promise seems shaky at best, considering that there were multiple recorded instances of them doing exactly that before Net Neutrality was instated in 2015.
For small business owners, myself included, this repeal would be devastating. Without these rules, ISPs are free to make services slower on websites that don’t pay them an extra fee. A lot of business owners don’t have room for that in their budget, but if we don’t pay up, our websites will lag and become miserable to use, which will cost us potential customers in droves.
This is bad for the consumer too. Online research and interactions with any business that hasn’t struck a deal with your ISP is likely to become a slow and tiresome process. This means that finding the best products and values will become much more difficult and a handful of companies will slowly but surely cultivate a monopoly, controlling what you will be able to purchase.
So, what can we do to fight this repeal? Call your representatives and find other platforms on which to speak out. The government works for the people, and this is not in the people’s best interest. Let’s let them know before it’s too late.
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