The Obama administration implemented net neutrality policies to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast to allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source. The policies prohibit ISPs from blocking, slowing, or selling priority delivery speeds to certain sites. ISPs have been taken to court over net neutrality issues such as restricting access to competitive companies and slowing service to peer-to-peer sharing sites. The current administration is seeking to roll back these policies, claiming that government interference reduces incentives to invest resulting in higher prices for consumers. On Monday April 3rd the President signed a repeal of Obama’s net neutrality rules, following repeal votes in the House and Senate. FCC commissioners voted to start the process to end net neutrality rules in May and they are now conducting a public comment period that lasts through the end of August. Companies such as Amazon and Netflix and online activists participated in a day of action on Wednesday July 12th that featured protest videos and memes with statements such as, “Unfortunately, your ISP does not want you viewing this content.” Submit a comment to the FCC to share your opinions on net neutrality.
This week in support of net neutrality we donated to the advocacy nonprofit Free Press. Their programs focus on preserving a free and open internet, curbing media consolidation, protecting freedom of the press, and ensuring that media represents diverse voices. In 2015 Free Press secured net neutrality rules at the FCC; the same rules that the FCC is now considering rolling back. In 2016, Free Press successfully defended those net neutrality rules against AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon in the courtrooms and in Congress. In addition, their efforts led to the FCC adding internet broadband service to the existing Lifeline program, which was created to subsidize phone service for low-income individuals.
We believe that this is a MAJOR issue that truly affects our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to learn and share information. The Internet permeates so many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional, on an individual and community level. As demonstrated by writing and publishing this blog, we believe that the free and open Internet is one of the most valuable tools that people today have to share their opinions and ideas, and fight back against what they feel is wrong. It is hard to imagine life without the luxury of this free and open Internet. It pains and worries us to think about what might happen if we do not all rise up and demand net neutrality today. This decision could have ramifications on all of our lives for years to come.