If you’ve logged onto Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr or several other social media websites in the past week you may have noticed banners or splash pages urging you and other users to take action against something called “net neutrality.”
Sounds kind of serious, huh? You might be wondering why all hands seem to be on the digital deck this week.
In the near future, the way we use the Internet could be changed for the worse. All of the little freedoms that we have become accustomed to could vanish overnight.
We might log onto those same social media sites that warned us about all of this and find we have to pay extra money in order to access them.
So what is all this?
What is net neutrality?
The idea of net neutrality is fairly simple.
It is the principle that all users, no matter the service provider they have, should be able to access the same content. This keeps the Internet an equal playing field – meaning that theoretically small businesses and major corporations have the same level of Internet access.
Why is this happening?
This issue comes up every couple of years as power shifts in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Now, the Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has released a proposal to change the commission’s rules regarding net neutrality – a decision which could change the concept of free internet as we know it.
Business Insider reporter Jeff Dunn writes that “Pai has not yet detailed how he would replace [the rules],” so there is an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty that depends on this decision.
Motivations seem pretty open and shut. If service providers are putting up artificial roadblocks to content that require extra payment to unlock, then the root of all evil has a hand in this.
Providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to have more of an influence on what we as consumers are allowed to consume.
Did you want to access Reddit to learn more about how to circumvent your computer’s OS? Oops, your internet provider is going to have to ask you to pay a little bit more in order to see that.
If net neutrality is struck down by the FCC in five days that could very well happen.
As Save the Internet writes, “without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online — and easier for companies to censor our speech. The internet could come to resemble cable TV, where gatekeepers exert control over where you go and what you see.”
What can we do to stop this?
The abolition of net neutrality could spell doom for not only small businesses, but individual web professionals as well. As Sitepoint asks, “what will happen when you build an application, and pour your (and perhaps your team’s) blood, sweat, and tears into it, draining savings, credit, hawking for funding perhaps, and you finally launch your app, only to find that some of your users or potential users cannot reach your app?”
If the idea of losing customers or even your personal enjoyment browsing the Internet concerns you, take the following steps: