When I was in middle school, I remember using a 14kbps dial-up modem. I’d log in to AOL, listen for the familiar “You’ve got mail” notification (a rarity since I was only in middle school and spam wasn’t really a thing yet) and open the web browser. I’d type in the web address and then get up and do something else for a few minutes. By the time I came back to the computer, the frames on the website would have almost finished loading.
I didn’t mind back then that the internet was so slow. For one reason, I didn’t know any better. People didn’t have DSL or gasp–cable–yet. WiFi wasn’t a thing anyone mentioned. Heck, cell phones were large, clunky, and used primarily by business people. (I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 17, and I shared it with my mom. It had a 20-minute battery life.)
The second reason I didn’t mind the internet being so slow is that I was only using it for fun. I was navigating to webpages about my favorite cartoons, looking at pictures of puppies, and reading about dinosaurs whenever I could. I didn’t need fast internet in order to earn a decent hourly wage as a freelance writer. I didn’t need to conduct last minute research for a 20-page paper; Google didn’t even exist yet. I had friends who I talked to on AIM, but we were used to everything taking its time, and we were fine with it.
At Risk: Internet Speed at an Affordable Price
The problem with killing net neutrality isn’t that the internet itself will slow down: The problem is that telecom companies can elect to charge users extra for faster internet. How much they can charge depends on what enough of the population is willing to pay…but for those who cannot afford those packages, they will not have the same ready access to information and communication that we enjoy today.
Speaking of being charged for services, it’s unlikely that telecom companies would all of a sudden start charging for social media and email packages, but the danger is that they legally could charge for these things. This will make social media and email unavailable for many who cannot afford to tack on an extra set of fees each month.
I’ll just text.
I’ve heard people say this, and yes–texting is a great alternative to email. But if we let the FCC roll back net neutrality, which established that the internet is a utility necessary for everyday life here in the U.S., how long before someone decides it’s a precedent to start charging people per text message again?
Do you see the danger?
At Risk: Freedom of Information
My thirteen-year-old self didn’t care about the news, social activism, or any other topic that relied on the internet. I had a couple of Greenpeace stickers on the mirror hanging on the back of my bedroom door–i.e. I cared about the environment–but I wasn’t reading about it regularly or signing petitions to fund our national parks.
You might argue that at thirteen, someone isn’t old enough to really participate in those discussions. Fine–I will grant you the freedom to think that though I disagree–but the fact remains that without net neutrality, we risk losing the freedom of information to make up our own minds on important political debates.
Our current president is doing everything he can to misinform the masses (someone take his Twitter away, please?!), and by appointing someone like Ajit Pai to head up the FCC, he’s creating an environment wherein the danger exists that the people might lose access to information.
Again, this isn’t a change we’d see right away after the end of net neutrality. And it might not even happen…but we need to acknowledge the potential for tyranny to flourish in an environment where corporations can play gatekeeper on the information and propaganda we receive.
Basically, without net neutrality, telecom corporations can decide which websites we have access to. That’s a huge deal, especially when over $60 million has been lobbied by telecom companies this year.
Let’s not lose track of who is in whose pocket.
What can you do about it?
If you want to keep your freedoms in place–and your internet access neutral–don’t feel overwhelmed by the FCC’s ruling to roll back net neutrality on Thursday. Even as an individual, there are things you can do to reverse this.
- Contact your state’s representatives. Congress still has the opportunity to tell the FCC it can’t roll back net neutrality. Find your representatives here.
- Call your state attorney general. Whether or not your state is already planning to sue the FCC over this ruling, you should find out and either register your support or urge your AG to join the states already planning to sue. Find your attorney general here.
- Donate to the ACLU, which will also be fighting against this ruling to keep the internet free.
- Educate those who don’t yet know what net neutrality means by sharing this article.
Cast your imagination into the future when, like the CDC which Trump wants to silence by banning certain words from their reports (hey wait, that’s not the future), articles like this one are deemed to be less than complimentary to our misogynistic, narcissistic, megalomaniac president and his cronies. You wouldn’t be able to read it. You wouldn’t know your freedoms are at risk or how to stop it.
We need net neutrality. This fight is far from over, and every person counts. Do something to stop this, yet one more threat to the fabric of our democracy, while you still have the power to do so.