The Internet’s potential to create important political change has been one of the most pressing news topics over the past five years. Its relative openness has proved instrumental to recent social revolutions, such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. A big factor in this is the principle of “Net Neutrality,” which holds that all data on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments, meaning that certain websites and services should not be privileged over others. However, this principle is being threatened.

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission released a statement to introduce new rules that would allow ISPs to charge companies a premium rate for content, or an Internet “fast lane”. This means, for example, that companies such as Netflix, Amazon, or Skype, can pay extra to access faster broadband speeds so that consumers can get to their content faster. On the one hand, this sounds potentially helpful to users who consume a lot of media on the Internet. On the other hand, however, this ruling has the potential to spiral into more politically charged scenarios, where only parties who can afford to pay ISPs premium rates will have easily accessible content—and everyone else is relegated to slow speeds.

Imagine this: an Internet where you can access Apple.com in a fraction of a heartbeat, but a non-profit activist website would take five minutes to load. Which site will get more visitors, and which site will have users leaving before it actually loads? You can read more about the fraught recent history on Net Neutrality here. To summarize, a U.S. Federal court ruling from January 2014 struck down the the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet order—indicating the start of the reversal of the FCC’s previous net neutrality policy.

If you find this problematic, join the current campaign to get the FCC to reconsider their stance by using the hashtag #NetNonNeutral on Twitter (some chosen tweets below). The proposed rules are being circulated to the agency’s four other commissioners today (April 24) and will be released for public on May 15. Net Neutrality is an issue which will definitively shape all of our futures.






Image from Camilo Sanchez on Wikimedia Commons

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