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Net Neutrality - The Time to Fight Is Now

Alexander Evis 22 November, 2017 (4 min read)

Over the coming days, the FCC is set to outline a plan to roll back Net Neutrality Rules deciding the future of free speech and commerce in America. The plan will be on ‘Net Neutrality’ — the set of rules that prevent the likes of Comcast or AT&T (so-called Internet Service Providers or ‘ISPs’) from blocking or slowing the content sent through their wires into your home or business. The Net Neutrality regime has fostered the explosion in innovation and the wave of citizen engagement we have seen over the last decade and more. It is now under assault.

The FCC’s vote to finalize their proposed rule that would formally remove the Net Neutrality protections. That vote will likely come before the end of the year and has been the subject of over 22 million comments (and much controversy). Because Republicans have majorities both in the Senate and at the FCC, defeating Pai’s nomination and the rule will be a struggle, but it is struggle on which our prosperity and the First Amendment depend.

In order to counter the lobbying clout of the cable industry, last month a group of advocates led dozens of citizens from all over the country (including from as far away as Alaska, Colorado Oregon and California!) to the Capitol in order to ask our lawmakers directly to vote against Pai’s confirmation and to oppose all attempts to weaken Net Neutrality.

This kind of action works — but only if it is combined with large numbers of fellow citizens petitioning their representatives closer to home.

One way to act is to use your social networks, your time and your wallet to let the companies that rely on a free and open internet know how you feel. Most of them support the current Net Neutrality rules. Many have taken strong public stands. However, they have increasingly been coming under political pressure to stay quiet. The pressure is working, especially on bigger companies: compare Netflix, Amazon and Spotify’s ‘Day of Action’ protests to those of smaller companies.

The only antidote to this is the customer. Following Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, consumers made their voices heard and it worked. It can work again.

A second way to engage is to target your representatives in Congress. It doesn’t matter if your representatives are Democrats, Republicans or a mix — constituent voices matter.

Emails are better than nothing, calls are better than emails and visits are better than calls.

To email: There are several petitions circulating, including Fight for the Future’s “Fire Pai” Petition.

To call: Get your elected representatives’ numbers here (it comes with a script)

To visit: Find upcoming district office visits here. If you don’t see one near you, organize your own or simply show up.

Tell your Representatives your own story. How is that you rely on the internet and how will you be affected if your ISP can decide what you see and what you don’t?

If you live in a blue district, chances are your Representatives already support the current Net Neutrality framework and oppose Pai’s agenda. If your Rep has been vocal, thank them. Ask Senators to vote against Pai’s confirmation and to make any vote in favor as politically difficult as possible. Ask both House members and Senators to use their weight to call the FCC to task in committee and to oppose any weakening of Net Neutrality.

It may be useful to point out to Democrats that internet freedom has been crucial to the successes they have had so far in opposing the current administration and the congressional majority. For example, without social media and aggressive online reporting, there would not have been any effective opposition to Trumpcare. If you are in a red district, explain to your Representative that the current policy of Net Neutrality is incredibly popular, even among Republicans. It may suffice merely to ask them, “who outside of Washington actually supports the FCC’s proposal?”

If your Representative is an intellectually honest believer in free markets (they do exist), it may help to point out that the proposed rule is contrary to that philosophy. Pai’s first argument in favor of the repeal of Net neutrality is that ISPs should not be subject to ‘utility-style’ regulation. That is an utter red herring. The current protections do not dictate rates, nor do they restrict activity in the way utility regulation does.

His second argument — that the Net Neutrality protections have reduced investment by ISPs — is demonstrably false, even according to the ISP’s own SEC filings. And even if it were true (which it isn’t), it would not be relevant.

You can make a coherent case that free markets produce the best economic outcomes. But you cannot measure the success of that theory by the investments or profits of a single industry. What matters is investment, competition and wealth creation throughout the entire economy. Ask your Rep, “How will a small business in your district compete if they cannot pay the same prioritization fees as Uber or Amazon?” The evidence is irrefutable: Net Neutrality protections have massively increased investment across the internet ecosystem. Entirely new industries like streaming video on demand have been created. Others like cloud computing have grown exponentially. Consumer choice has improved — 22mm Americans will ‘cut the cord’ this year.

These two votes will determine whether or not the internet as we know it continues to exist. Be heard today — If you‘re not, the outcome is certain.

Like so many things in America, Net Neutrality has become a partisan issue even though it ought not to be and hadn’t been until recently (should the NFL be a partisan issue?!?).

Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Center for Media Justice, Common Cause, Consumers Union, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, Writers Guild of American West, and Public Knowledge. For perfect clarity, I do not represent any of those groups. I speak only for myself.

I can speak from experience. Despite having virtually unlimited resources and expertise, large bank lobbying against financial reform failed more than it succeeded because of the combination of citizen action and professional activists like Better Markets. In part this was because banks were so unpopular (cable companies are even more unpopular) but it was also because when voters make themselves heard, the government actually does respond.

Even granting that ISPs are regulated like utilities (and they are not), most Americans view internet access as a necessity, more similar to water and power than to legacy cable television.

If you’re passionate about Front End development, check out the JavaScript Works job-board here!

Originally published on hackernoon.com