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Why is Net Neutrality so important?

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Without the Net Neutrality laws and restrictions, Huge companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can control the internet and be the decision maker of what content and which applications will succeed. The big industries can slow down opponent’s content or block opinions they don’t like. These industries can even pin extra fees onto few content companies that can actually afford to pay for preferential treatment, which relegates everyone else to a lower tier of the internet. People of colour, the LGBTQ community, indigenous people and religious minorities in the United States depend on an open internet to set up access to economic and educational opportunities, and fight back against systemic discrimination. Without Net Neutrality, how will activists be able to fight oppression? What will happen to social movements like the Movement for Black Lives? How will the next disruptive technology, business or company emerge if internet service providers let only incumbents succeed? Tell me about the Title II rules we just lost. Why is Title II so important?

After a decade-long battle over the future of the internet, in 2015 the FCC adopted strong Net Neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, giving internet users the strongest protections possible. Courts rejected two earlier FCC attempts to craft Net Neutrality rules and told the agency that if it wanted to adopt such protections it needed to use the proper legal foundation: Title II. In February 2015, the FCC did just that when it reclassified broadband providers as common carriers under Title II.

Title II gave the FCC the authority it needed to ensure that companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can’t block, throttle or otherwise interfere with web traffic. Title II preserved the internet’s level playing field, allowing people to share and access information of their choosing. These rules ushered in a historic era of online innovation and investment. The Title II rules also withstood two challenges from industry. Free Press helped argue the case defending the FCC — and on June 14, 2016, a federal appeals court upheld the open-internet protections in all respects. We’re now preparing to sue the FCC to restore the Title II rules.

Why is Net Neutrality so crucial for communities of color?

The open internet allows people of color to tell their own stories and organize for racial justice. When activists are able to turn out thousands of people in the streets at a moment’s notice, it’s because ISPs aren’t allowed to block their messages or websites. The mainstream media have long misrepresented, ignored and harmed people of color. And thanks to systemic racism, economic inequality and runaway media consolidation, people of color own just a handful of broadcast stations. This dynamic will only get worse: In 2017, Chairman Pai demolished most of the remaining media-ownership rules. The lack of diverse ownership is a primary reason why the media have gotten away with criminalizing and dehumanizing communities of color. The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform. And without Net Neutrality, millions of small businesses owned by people of color wouldn’t be able to compete against larger corporations online, which would deepen economic disparities.

Why is Net Neutrality important for businesses?

Net Neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open internet to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach customers. We need the open internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation. It’s thanks to Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive online. But without Net Neutrality, ISPs will exploit their gatekeeper position and destroy the internet’s fair and level playing field. Without Net Neutrality, the next Google or Facebook will never get off the ground.

What can we do now?

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s vote. Urge your lawmakers to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules. The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded. The only trouble is that, here in the year 2014, complaints about a fast-lane don’t make much sense. Today, privileged companies—including Google, Facebook, and Netflix—already benefit from what are essentially internet fast lanes, and this has been the case for years. Such web giants—and others—now have direct connections to big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, and they run dedicated computer servers deep inside these ISPs. In technical lingo, these are known as “peering connections” and “content delivery servers,” and they’re a vital part of the way the internet works. “Fast lane is how the internet is built today,” says Craig Labovitz, who, as the CEO of Deep Field Networks, an outfit whose sole mission is to track how companies build internet infrastructure, probably knows more about the design of the modern internet than anyone else. And many other internet experts agree with him.

“The net neutrality debate has got many facets to it, and most of the points of the debate are artificial, distracting, and based on an incorrect mental model on how the internet works,” says Dave That, a developer of open-source networking software. The concepts driving today’s net neutrality debate caught on because the internet used to operate differently—and because they were easy for consumers to understand. In many respects, these concepts were vitally important to the evolution of the internet over the past decades. But in today’s world, they don’t address the real issue with the country’s ISPs, and if we spend too much time worried about fast lanes, we could hurt the net’s progress rather than help it. Even Tim Wu, the man who coined the term net neutrality, will tell you that the fast lane idea isn’t what it seems. “The fast lane is not a literal truth,” he says. “But it’s a sense that you should have a fair shot.” On the modern internet, as Wu indicates, the real issue is that such a small number of internet service providers now control the pipes that reach out to U.S. consumers—and that number is getting even smaller, with Comcast looking to acquire Time Warner, one of its biggest rivals. The real issue is that the Comcast and Verizon are becoming too big and too powerful. Because every web company has no choice but to go through these ISPs, the Comcast’s and the Verizon’s may eventually have too much freedom to decide how much companies must pay for fast speeds.

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