This past Wednesday, big businesses and everyday people took to social media to protest the proposal to get rid of Net Neutrality. Will it be enough to convince the FCC otherwise?
In 1991, the world as we know it changed when Tim Berners Lee introduced the World Wide Web—a single page of text with only a few hyperlinks. It took a few years for the web to move from college campuses into homes and businesses but, since then, the Internet has morphed into a medium for anyone and everyone to pay bills, apply for jobs, contact loved ones, conduct business, publish content and so much more. It has, in several ways, become an extension of ourselves, our livelihood. Since its inception, the Internet has been theoretically open and free. While it costs money to access the Internet (unless you frequent your local Starbucks), anyone who can access it has as much ability to publish and explore content as anyone else. Thus, it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that the FCC’s proposition to eliminate net neutrality caused an uproar when it was announced on July 12th. This quickly resulted in “The Day of Action” on the very medium under attack.
This isn’t anything new, at least for Senator Ron Wyden, who fought and won against anti-piracy bills back in 2012 that had the potential to impact freedom of speech online. But, with the support of several big businesses and consequent complaints from the public, the legislation was postponed. While this seems like a promising outcome for the current situation, there’s still a lot at stake.
“Without net neutrality rules, internet services providers ranging from home broadband companies like Comcast to wireless data providers like Verizon would be free to slow video streams, charge you extra to access particular content, or outright block you from visiting sites,” explained Klint Finley for Wired.
It’s a bit extreme, and for not just users, but for businesses that depend on quick, easy Internet access on a daily basis. Let’s pretend that the FCC did revoke net neutrality, how would business be impacted? Well for starters, the fair play structure of the Internet (something all companies rely on to have an opportunity at online success) would no longer exist.
“Network neutrality guarantees a level playing field for companies that deliver information through the Internet, and practically every business sector uses the Internet to disseminate information,” said Nicholas Economides of The Hill.
If net neutrality were to disappear, only bigger, more substantial companies would be able to afford the steep frees for site and content use. Any competitors without deep pockets would quickly get priced out. And even then, big businesses aren’t exactly benefiting from the situation. In fact, consumers wouldn’t even be profiting from the situation either—big broadband and wireless companies would have the power to slow user access to streams (meaning more money for Internet service providers). And what about smaller companies?
As stated by Nicholas Economides, revoking net neutrality would be a disaster for small businesses:
“Besides helping existing businesses, network neutrality is crucial for startups that would never be able to pay the fees to avoid being delayed if net neutrality is not there. U.S growth and worldwide dominance of high technology would be significantly challenged without network neutrality.”
Startups, the very essence of Silicon Valley, would be at risk in the new Internet world without net neutrality. What was once a symbol of democracy and opportunity, now has the potential to thwart the very innovation and creativity that drives success. Take adverting and marketing industries, for example. Getting content to users will be more difficult than ever before with admission fees.
“Brands with any type of content, from ecommerce sites to brand microsites, could be asked to cough up payments to telcos to enable the quick access to their content they take for granted today. Digital ads could take longer to load,” reported Kate Kaye of Ad Age.
And with advertisers and other businesses, this only leads to unfair business practices—favoring content produced by the very companies owned by internet service providers. Which, most likely wouldn’t add to mobile user data plans, but allowing access to content not associated with those companies would certainly charge consumers extra. Customers would have zero incentive to navigate outside the realm of the wireless and broadband monopoly and their partners. Take Google and Facebook—while they associate with Internet Association (a pro-net neutrality organization) they’re also associated with AT&T’s mobile ad division, Ad Works. This means they would directly benefit from the collapse of net-neutrality, and the subsequent lack of smaller publishers to compete against.
Yet, according to Klint Finley, these lurking ramifications don’t seem to phase the FCC:
“What’s more, the FCC has made it clear that it won’t necessarily be swayed by public opinion. Which is reasonable enough: sometimes federal agencies have to make unpopular decisions. But it does make the fight to stop the agency from gutting its own rules more difficult.”
It’s obvious that cutting net neutrality only favors a select few—but that didn’t stop the public or other big businesses from protesting the proposal. Amazon, Reddit, the ACLU and even PornHub came together to spread awareness of how stripping net neutrality would be harmful to virtually everyone. Not to mention the numerous publishers like Wired and Mashable that produced content on how to fight the situation at hand. It goes to show that with enough protest and persistence, there will always be a chance to make a difference—whether it means contacting representatives or spreading the word on social media. The only real way to protect the Internet is through the Internet. And maybe “The Day of Action”, combined with the efforts of Senator Ron Wyden, big companies and everyday citizens, made the impact we hoped for, and continue to hope for, if only to preserve the very foundation of our values and beliefs.