Special interests may soon dictate what Internet content you are able to access. Action Alert!
On its most basic level, net neutrality is the idea that all Internet content should be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs), with no website or company getting preferential treatment. But newly released Federal Communications Commission (FCC) draft rules makes a mockery of the idea of “neutrality.”
Currently, ISPs like Comcast or Verizon are obligated to “deliver” all data in the order they are received, at the same speed. But under the new FCC rules, companies could pay ISPs extra for a “fast lane” that would give their content priority over all those who choose not to (or don’t have the means to) pay. In addition, there’s nothing in these new rules to stop ISPs from charging you more for tapping into the “fast lane.”
Essentially, a “fast lane” would make ISPs—which are becoming increasingly monopolistic in many markets—into the gatekeepers of the Internet: these mega-corporations and their friends with deep pockets would have the power to decide what content you will see quickly, and what content will be delivered to you much more slowly. For example, large biotech companies would be able to pay for “fast lane” service, while grassroots organizations that promote GMO labeling may not be able to.
Since one in four Internet users abandon websites that take four or more seconds to load, users will naturally gravitate toward “fast lane” sites that deliver content more quickly. Over time, this would also affect search engine results and rankings. “Fast lane” sites will be pushed to the top of web searches, making it less likely that consumers will even be able to find other content. If, for example, the average consumer were to search for “GMO labeling,” all they might see is site after site assuring them that GMOs are perfectly safe and that GMO labeling is completely unnecessary. This could neuter (pun intended) the grassroots power of the Net, and be another way corporate America rules the political system.
Doing away with net neutrality would shut down many smaller businesses and stifle innovation. Slower content simply won’t gain the same exposure as “fast lane” content—and these days, exposure is everything. The next Facebook, Netflix, or Angry Birds may never get off the ground.
Action Alert! The Internet is one of the few remaining realms where every voice has an equal opportunity to be heard—but the new FCC rules would change the Internet as we know it. We must stop our “pay-to-play” culture from creating a disaster. Tell the FCC to preserve net neutrality and not allow “fast lanes”!