Here’s everything you can do to help save net neutrality.
In a week’s time, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will vote on Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back net neutrality rules instated under his predecessor Tom Wheeler. After that, your internet experience might never be the same. Although the decision seems final, based on the political affiliations of the FCC leadership members who will be voting, there are still a few things you can do to save net neutrality.
Under net neutrality rules, also known as open internet rules, internet service providers (ISPs) are prohibited from discriminating between different services and must treat all traffic equally. That means, for instance, your broadband provider can’t slow down (throttle) or block your connection to your favorite streaming service in favor of a competitor. It also prevents big tech companies such as Facebook and Google from cutting deals with ISPs to prioritize their traffic to the detriment of startups and smaller players who don’t have as deep of pockets as they do.
Without net neutrality, ISPs would largely be free to control their customers’ access to internet services however they like, with only the reactive threat of consumer backlash holding them back. Pai’s plan only requires ISPs to be transparent and disclose their plans and mechanics. As past history shows, leaving ISPs to their own devices is not a good practice.
Activists and defenders of net neutrality are also organizing numerous events before the Dec. 14 vote. Here’s what you can do to have your voice heard and (potentially) affect the vote.
How to support net neutrality
1. Email Congress members
The FCC no longer collects comments on its website, but you can still convey your message to the FCC through members of Congress. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for digital privacy and an open internet, has created a page that will make it easier for you to email Congress members. All you need to do is fill in your street address and zip code, and it will send a message to the corresponding representative. The page even contains a default text, though you can customize it to your needs. Alternatively, you can use this page, which helps you call Congress Members.
You can also write to Congress through the website of Battle for the Net, the activist association that was founded specifically to protect net neutrality and the open internet. The website also does a good job of describing what net neutrality is and what the internet could be like if it is destroyed.
2. Show your support online
If you have a high-traffic blog or website, Battle for the Net also has some cool widgets you can feature on your website to inform your audience about net neutrality. All you need is insert the little HTML snippet into your website’s pages.
And of course, you can always take to social media and post to your heart’s content on the #NetNeutrality hashtag.
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3. Rally at Verizon
On Dec. 7, Battle for the Net will hold rallies at dozens of Verizon retail stores across the U.S. to protest against the repeal of net neutrality rules. Verizon has been chosen because of its prominent role in undermining net neutrality. The protests are meant to be peaceful. “We are obviously not going to be mean to the nice folks working at the Verizon store, because, again obviously, they have nothing to do with it,” the organizers have said. “This event is about protesting actions of Verizon executives, lobbyists and their supporters in Washington, not the employees at these stores.”
4. March for net neutrality
On Dec. 13, a day before the vote, Defend Net Neutrality, another net neutrality activist group, will be holding a March for Net Neutrality rally in Washington, D.C., in front of the FCC headquarters. On the day of the vote, Voices for Internet Freedom, another coalition of rights groups—including the Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, the National Hispanic Media Center, and Free Press—will host a gathering at the same location.
What happens next?
Out of five FCC commissioners, two of them, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, already oppose Pai’s plan. We have until Dec. 14 to convince one more commissioner to vote in favor of preserving net neutrality rules.
At the end of the day, even if our voices don’t prevent the FCC from gutting net neutrality on Dec. 14, they will at least serve as a warning to telecoms and broadbands who will want to take advantage of their newly acquired power to undermine the open internet at our expense.