The Internet is the most liberating force in the history of human civilization. It’s transformed us from a patchwork of cities, towns, and villages into an intercommunicating organism; linking us to each other. It is vital that Internet remains a free and open platform to everyone in the world.
Turns out, it is that vitality which is it at stake now. Let me tell you how.
What is Net Neutrality?
It is a principle that the Internet must remain neutral and open to everyone; that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all data that travel over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services; that no leeway or preferential treatment be granted either by governments or ISPs to individuals or businesses. This guiding principle is the key to all that’s good about the Internet. If rolled back, which is what the new FCC Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pa intends to do, it poses a great threat to transparency and your freedom to use the Internet through blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic.
Where do my favorite Internet companies lie on Net Neutrality?
Amazon is an unlikely champion of net neutrality. Its e-commerce business is by far the biggest player in online shopping, and slightly slower download speeds aren’t likely to change that. Though it hasn’t always been the most vocal supporter of net neutrality, it is part of the Internet Association, which has quietly lobbied in favor of keeping the current rules intact.
Of all the companies on this list, Google has the most motivation to not support net neutrality. It owns the high-speed internet service Google Fiber and the wireless reseller Project-Fi, so it could, in theory, end up wanting to prioritize its own services on its own networks. And it’s hard to imagine a change in net neutrality policy shaking Google’s dominance in the online advertising sector. If anything, you might expect Google to want to use the end of net neutrality to shut rivals out of the market.
Apple has long been absent from the net neutrality debate. The company was not one of the 100 companies that signed the open letter supporting net neutrality in 2014, it’s not a member of the Internet Association, and it hasn’t announced any plans to participate in the day of action this week. Historically Apple hasn’t exactly been a friend to net neutrality. In 2009, Apple was caught blocking voice calling from the Skype app on iPhones on AT&T’s network. AT&T and Apple eventually relented and allowed Skype calling after FCC pressure.
Facebook has a complicated relationship to net neutrality. It has lobbied in support of the FCC’s rules through its membership in the Internet Association. “We fully support net neutrality,” CEO Mark Zuckeberg wrote in a Facebook post in 2015. “We want to keep the internet open.” However, the company’s Free Basics service, which offers free access to select websites and services, but not the entire internet, has been criticized by net neutrality advocates. The service was eventually banned in India, but is still available through carrier partnerships in several other countries. Free Basics is a form of what’s known as “zero rating,” which means it exempts certain content from standard carrier fees. As a result, sites or services that can be used for free end up gaining an edge over competitors that still cost money to access. Defenders of zero rating say these services make it easier for the poor to access digital services. But critics argue that zero rating creates winners and losers on the internet, which is a clear violation of the net neutrality ethos.
Originally posted here.
Why is it important?
Good question! Net neutrality ensures everyone who has access to the Internet gets a level playing field. Let me explain using a scenario:
Let’s say your neighborhood has a mail room where delivery services drop off packages you ordered, and you pick them up from there. Let’s further say that they advertise that the mail room can safely accommodate each person getting five packages a day. Let’s further say that 90% of the packages are candy. And that the mail room company, MRC, happens to sell its own candy that no one ever buys.
One day, it turns out the mail room is over capacity. People are ordering more packages than the mail room can handle. “Don’t worry” announces MRC. “We’ve got this under control!” Mysteriously, your candy packages start disappearing en route. In completely unrelated news, MRC advertises that if you buy their candy, you are guaranteed reliable delivery. Some people think that, however MRC handles the capacity problem, it should not discriminate based on who sends the packages. They call this “package neutrality” and say that MRC is violating it to give itself an unfair advantage.
Decoder key: Candy is steaming video services.
Everyone’s favorite candy is Netflix.
MRC is an ISP like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T etc.
Package neutrality is Net Neutrality.
What can you do?
It’s awesome that you want to act to save net neutrality! These are the action items you can act upon:
- Send a message to FCC through Electronic Frontier Foundation’s DearFCC website. It does not matter if you live outside the United States, it affects all of us.
- If you are in the US, call the Chairman of the FCC’s office directly, it is well within your rights as a citizen to make your voice heard. You can also call the Congressman or Congresswoman of your constituency. Like the FCC, they are answerable to you. You can also write to the FCC directly (proposal Docket No. 17-108). Read a little guide on how to do that.
- If you run a website or an app, you have a lot of power to get the word out about net neutrality. Add this small chunk of code to let users send a letter to FCC directly from your website.
- Sign the Change.org petition which would be delivered to the FCC, US Senate, and US House of Representatives.
- You must have social media accounts, right? Great! You can change your display pictures to show your support resources by using these images. You can also show your support by changing cover photos, uploading stories to Instagram, etc. using these images.
Companies that have your back on Net Neutrality
Remember! Access to open Internet is a fundamental human right and it is time to protect it! Act now!
Passionately a software developer, Basit Saeed considers himself a person who believes in software and social media being the change agents of 21st century. He is a techy, a gadgets freak, and loves playing with code whenever he can. He tweets at @basit_saeed.