The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time and a great equalizer. But that goldmine of opportunity and information could become history if the FCC and big corporations like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have their way.
You may have heard that they and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler want to overturn Title II “net neutrality” provisions that require Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to treat information equally, whether it originates from a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 500 company. If we allow this to happen, ISP’s will have the right to create so-called Internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes,” and charge a premium for speedy service.
What might that look and feel like? It could suck– especially if…
your vacuum cleaner isn’t sucking up dirt like it should. Just ask Liz.
It was a holiday weekend, guests were on the way, and Liz’s vacuum cleaner suction went to near zero for no apparent reason. She couldn’t find her operating manual and customer service was closed, but an Internet do-it-yourself site saved the day with a simple quick fix posted by a vacuum angel.
If Liz needs help with an appliance, computer or other gadget in a future without net neutrality, she could be out of luck. You see, in a world where website owners have to pay big bucks to operate on an Internet fast lane, free online education sites could be left it the dust while companies flush with resources deliver you their sales pitch in a flash. Just ask Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit.com.
“Our quest to make repair knowledge free to everyone in the world requires a free and fair Internet,” Wiens said. “Our mission is to teach everyone to fix their things…because manufacturers aren’t sharing [repair information] with them….Fast lanes bias against public domain content in favor of large corporations.”
Want to start a business on a shoestring? You lose in a world with “fast” and “slow” lanes.
Julie Wood, who handles communications for Kickstarter, the largest and best-known crowdfunding platform on the Internet, thinks sites like iFixit might not even get off the ground in a future world with fast lanes.
“Once a fast lane exists, it will become the de facto standard on the Web,” Wood predicted. “Sites unwilling or unable to pay up will be buffered to death: unloadable, unwatchable and left out in the cold. It won’t be enough anymore to have a great idea and to execute it well. New entrepreneurs will have to pay their ISP tax, too.”
Second-class, “back-of-the-bus” Internet treatment could hobble or shutter sites we’ve come to rely on, but it gets worse.
This differential treatment could negatively affect civil liberties by controlling accessibility of selected information, noted Corynne McSherry, attorney and IP Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
McSherry equates the control mechanisms over Internet information to water spigots. In a new world where ISP’s are in control, they’re the ones deciding when spigots get turned on and how much information flows to consumers. In fact, ISPs would even have the power to block “unlawful” content.
“That puts ISP’s in the position of a court, effectively enjoining content, applications etcetera that might or might not actually violate the law,” McSherry said.
McSherry is concerned that, “Paid prioritization, blocking, access charges and other discriminatory practices” could put the power of the Internet into the hands of a few powerful organizations.
In a world without net neutrality, we might never find a link about NSA abuses from the likes of Edward Snowden or we might wait an eternity to watch a video clip about the tracking potential of radio frequency identification tags.
Can you think of a few big corporations and government agencies that would be tickled pink with this newfound ability? We certainly can.
So can Raegan MacDonald, European Policy Manager at AccessNow, an international digital rights organization.
“Without strong protections for the principle of net neutrality, the risk for censorship — whether at the behest of the state or on behalf of companies — will persist,” she warned. “Sometimes these attacks are motivated by the quest for profit; others come from governments who wish to suppress unwanted speech.”
Don’t Let Big Corporations Flush our Internet Rights Down the Toilet!
Over a million people—the most ever in history for a single docket item – petitioned the FCC to keep the Internet free, but Chairman Tom Wheeler is still moving forward with plans to remove Title II protections that keep the Internet what domain name registrar Namecheap calls, “a level playing field where everyone has a voice.” (Note: It’s not surprising. Before Wheeler came to the White House he was a lobbyist for the cable industry and served as President of the National Cable Association.)
On September 10 concerned citizens, activists, and online companies will be joining together for an “Internet Slowdown” Day of Action, said Evan Greer, spokesperson for Fight for the Future, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and expanding the Internet’s transformative power. Participants in the action include names you know and love, including StartPage, Ixquick, StartMail, Etsy, Kickstarter, WordPress, Vimeo, Mozilla, Namecheap, Foursquare, imgur, and reddit.
Participating is easy to do. If you’re one of those people who wants to keep the Internet the level playing field it is today, visit BattleForTheNet to find out how you can do your part. While you’re there, consider signing on to the “Citizen Letter for Net Neutrality” that will be delivered to Congress.
Together we can keep the Internet free, open – and, yes, “delicious!”
Til next time,
Katherine & Liz
Join the privacy revolution by switching to StartPage.com the private search engine, and using StartMail.com encrypted email, both projects Katherine has helped develop. You can catch Katherine on radio daily at www.kmashow.com. And please read our book, Spychips, to learn more about privacy-invading technology and how to defeat it.
Photo credits: zurijeta/BigStock.com, wyuey/BigStock.com/Liz McIntyre, Elnur/Bigstock.com/LizMcIntyre, bioraven/Bigstock.com/Liz McIntyre, Korean Central News Agency of DRPK, Thinkmodo/Namecheap.com/NetNeutrality.com, BattlefortheNet.com