Your Right to Free Speech at Risk: An Overview of Net Neutrality

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Perhaps it’s the term “Net Neutrality”, itself, that almost immediately induces boredom and disinterest. (Yawn) And that is just fine by the internet service providers who would prefer that you be distracted by something shiny and look away. But if you strive to see your organization become or remain one of the best nonprofits to work for or one that can share its message with more donors via the internet, you need to pay attention to this issue.

This is the “First Amendment issue of our time” according Senator Al Franken. The comedy genius, has been an outspoken proponent of Net Neutrality, which essentially protects an open internet.  Recent moves by the FCC are leading closer to giving Verizon and Comcast the ability to create different levels of deliverability based on what a company pays.
Watch here as Sen. Franken explains why protecting Net Neutrality is important to us all.

 

The likely result: Internet service providers will provide the highest bidders with a “Fast Lane”, fastest download connection times, and a “Slow Lane” for everyone else. While it may seem unbelievable that such a thing could happen, there have been documented cases where the download time of companies had been slowed down

“Broadband providers have both the incentive and the ability to interfere with the Internet. That hasn’t stopped network neutrality opponents from claiming that the threat is “theoretical,” or that applying time-honored common carrier principles to the Internet is a “solution in search of a problem.” In fact, there have already been numerous incidents of abuse.” – ACLU

The ACLU describes several incidents here.

 

Why be concerned? This PBS News Hour video features Gwen Ifill and helps explain the motivation behind the deal and possible changes for consumers from Edmund Lee of Bloomberg News:

 

The largest threats to the general public are

  • Competition is good and monopolies are bad: Reduced choices for consumers result in reduced quality of service
  • Consumers will pay more: Although not immediately, it’s very likely that Netflix customers will be picking up the tab in the future
  • Emerging businesses and consumers lose if delivery service is decreased

 

Still find these explanations too boring? This John Oliver explanation is for you! (warning: includes adult language)

 

Not everyone finds the risks disconcerting, however. If you are an investor looking for a great opportunity, Motley Fool thinks that this is ripe for the picking: “No Netflix’s Deal with the Devil Doesn’t Hurt Net Neutrality”  In summary: Big companies and investors could make lots of money and the rest of us will end up paying more.

 

How can you help? Take action by contacting the FCC. John Oliver’s rant (above) actually inspired so many comments that the FCC website crashed.  But according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s twitter account, the comments are being heard:

 

 

Before it’s too late: Let the FCC know how you feel and email: Tom.Wheeler@FCC.gov

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, too!