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I hope everyone had a wonderful week and got their fill of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, WordPress, Reddit, and Google. I also hope everyone is enjoying the winter weather. I know all across the Eastern half of the United States there has been a lot of snow. Of course California is burning right now, so not everything is a winter wonderland. If you are from California, I hope that you are safe and away from the fire. When I was preparing to write this week’s Weekly Blog, I was sitting in my room watching the snow fall and thinking that I was going to write a post all about Winter and snow and fun stuff like that. However, there is a impeding vote that I think I should talk about. This is going to be a very political post which is not a norm for Weekly Blogs, but I ask you, even if you aren’t a political person, please continue reading. This is an issue that affects everyone whether you are a political person or not. The fact that you are using your phone, tablet, or computer to read this blog using the all powerful internet, means this affects you. This is also going to be a focused on the United States and the Federal Communication Commission. However, the way the US handles the internet and Net Neutrality could have consequences on the internet around the globe. Net Neutrality is a huge issue and even though I wanted to make all my December Weekly Blogs, festive, I must put that aside and put Christmas on hold for a day so we can talk about it.
Now I could have sworn I’ve done a Weekly Blog on Net Neutrality before, but I looked and looked and I couldn’t find it. So I guess I didn’t. Even if I did, it definitely deserves being repeated. Unless you’ve been avoiding the majority of the internet and living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the term “Net Neutrality.” Now what does it mean? Well it’s become a bit of a buzz word for people advocating for a free and open internet. Basically, Net Neutrality is “[…] the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content” (Wikipedia). In other words, Net Neutrality is a set of protections by the FCC, set up under the Obama Administration, that “[…] classified broadband as a Title II communication service with providers being “common carriers”, not “information providers” (Wikipedia).
Now to put all of this in perspective, it is one thing to talk about Net Neutrality as a concept and it is another to talk about it in practice. The easiest way to explain what Net Neutrality actually does is talk about what the internet would look like without it. Net Neutrality is a protection of the internet and the consumer. Without it, the internet is able to be controlled by large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and Spectrum. Without Net Neutrality, 1) ISPs can create fast lanes allowing people who can afford it (AKA not you and me) to pay money in order to have internet be faster. This wouldn’t be like paying more for faster internet speeds (which is already a thing). This would be like rich people putting a priority on their internet over yours. Without Net Neutrality, 2) ISPs can divvy up the internet and split it up into packages similar to cable packages. That means that you may have to pay more for a “Social Media Package” including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, a “News Package” including CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, a “Entertainment Package” including YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, a “Music Package” including Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Google Music, and a “Shopping Package” including Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Not only would you have to pay for the actual services you use, you would also have to pay the ISP’s to access specific websites in the first place. Without Net Neutrality, 3) ISPS can slow down your internet if you are accessing certain websites, especially if you’re not using their preferred website. For example if Comcast comes out with a streaming service in order to compete with Hulu and Netflix, they can decrease your internet speed while you use Netflix to the point where it is impossible to load the newest episode of Black Mirror or Stranger Things. They can either force Netflix to pay them millions of dollars to leave your internet speed alone or they can make sure you only use their streaming service instead of Netflix. These are all real possibilities that could be coming to the internet real soon if the FCC strips Net Neutrality protections.
Now I’ve seen arguments from people saying that people are overreacting to possibilities without knowing what will really happen if Net Neutrality is taken away. Well thanks to the wonderful internet, we can actually see how other countries deal with the internet and the idea of Net Neutrality. In Portugal, they do not have any protections from ISPs and their internet looks like this:
Now I don’t speak Portuguese, but from what English I see, I can tell you that Portugal’s internet is pretty much broken up in the way I described above. You pay so much for your basic internet and internet speed and then you have to buy additional packages to access the websites you use every day. You want to use texting, you pay for the “Messaging Package.” You want to use Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook, use pay for the “Social Package.” You want to watch Video, listen to Music, or send and recieve emails? Well you have to buy those packages as well. So instead of paying let’s say $30 or $35 total for your internet and a good speed (I have no idea what internet prices are for Portugal), you would now have to pay for the internet and your speed and then spend another $25 or more to buy all the packages you want just to access the websites you use on a daily basis. And even after you pay that additional money for those packages, the ISP’s can still slow down your internet if you are using their competitors website over theirs or if there’s some kind of beef behind the scenes between two companies. Isn’t that fun?
So yeah. That’s what the internet could look like (and most likely will) if the FCC strips these Net Neutrality protections. So is all hope lost? No, not yet. On December 14th (which is this upcoming Thursday if you are reading this on Sunday, December 10th), the FCC is holding a vote on whether or not they will repeal Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, is leading the charge to strip Net Neutrality. Over the past few months, people have been sending letters, faxes, and phone calls to the FCC to show support for Net Neutrality. There has also been a push to contact Members of Congress who could pass legislature to keep Net Neutrality in place. If all of that fails and the FCC does strip Net Neutrality protections, the Hail Mary options is that the Judicial Courts could do something about it. It’s a long shot, but there is a plan C.
Now here comes my plea to action. If you read all of this and you want to know what you can do to save Net Neutrality, there are some websites you can check out. BattleForTheNet.Com is a website I’d highly recommend. It has a lot of great information as well as a way to contact your Congress person. CallMyCongress.com and House.Gov are great websites to find your Congressman or woman if you don’t know who it is already. You need to provide some information about yourself, but then you can contact your member of Congress and tell them that you support Net Neutrality. You can also text “Resist” to 50-409. This will prompt a set of text messages where a bot will help you write an email or fax to be sent to your members of Congress. A lot of these websites will be busy with traffic over the next few days leading up to Thursday’s vote, so it might be a little hard getting through. Just keep trying. Please call, email, or even write a letter. As someone who worked in a Government Office, I can tell you that people do read these letters and email. It will probably be the Congressman or woman’s staff, but if an office is filled with pro-Net Neutrality emails, letters, and phone calls, it will become apparent that their constituents care about this issue. The internet is in real danger, and if we don’t do something, we could see drastic changes to the thing we love. The internet is such an important resource and we cannot allow ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and Spectrum to take control of the internet and tear it apart just to make some more money from consumers like you and me. Please join me in the crusade to save Net Neutrality and save the internet.
Thank you so much for reading through that entire thing. Hopefully your internet provider let you read the entire thing and loaded the above image of Portugal’s internet plans. If you liked this Weekly Blog, please give it a like or leave a comment down below. Maybe comment on our opinion on Net Neutrality or a confirmation that you reached out to your member of Congress in regards to Net Neutrality. I know you’ve probably gotten this drilled into your brain, but it’s important to keep up the fight. As soon as we stop fighting, the FCC will swoop and vote to strip Net Neutrality. We must keep vigilant. If you did not care for this Weekly Blog, that’s ok. Hopefully you can find something else to read on the website. There are over 150 different pieces published on the website, so you should be able to find something you’d enjoy. As a reminder, I am using December as a gauge going forward into 2018 to determine people’s interest in the things I write. If their is a particular piece you enjoy, make sure you show it some love in the form of views, likes, and comments. That way I can look at my stats, see that is popular, and tailor my writing to my audience. I’m still going to write what I want, but it helps to know that people will actually read it.
Well that’s all for now.
Thank you for all your support and I hope you have a wonderful week!
Header Photo Credit to Phone2Action’s Blog on Net Neutrality
Image of Portugal’s Internet Plan comes from The Los Angeles Times