Corporatists Want to Take Away Our Internet Freedom
Originally published November 29, 2017 on Medium
Why we must rebrand “Net Neutrality”
and stop them
I used the term “Net Neutrality” with a couple people the other day and their eyes began to cross, but when I explained how our government is about to take away our freedom to access certain websites and determine who can compete in online business, I could see the panic on their faces, the anger in their eyes. We talked about how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on December 14 to put an end to the open and free internet that we appreciate today. Make no mistake–this is an attack on our freedoms, not our neutrality, and Americans fight for freedom. That is why, if we are going to win this fight, it is important that we listen to the experts who have proven that words matter. Net Neutrality needs to start being called “Net Freedom.”
Thankfully, I did not make up the term Net Freedom. There is an exciting wave of people arguing for this rebranding because they understand that when we learn how to talk about the issues that affect us, people then learn to care about otherwise mundane or overwhelming topics. We see how it relates to our everyday lives, and that is when we get active and become a force to be reckoned with.
The impending attack on our internet freedom will affect all of our lives in very real ways. Wealthy elites and corporations already control our government, and now they want to control our internet too. Their aim is to privatize the internet by allowing corporate giants to have even more power so that they can stifle competition and control the market at the expense of small business. Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans want to maintain Net Freedom, and only 16% side with the FCC, corporate giants like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T are moving forward anyway. Companies that support Net Freedom include Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Netflix. This comes as no surprise, of course, since all of these companies began as startups that were able to succeed because of a free and open internet.
More freedom to compete means more options for consumers. Our privatized government, however, is working to turn this concept on its head, trying to manipulate us into thinking that giving away our Net Freedom is for our benefit. Let us not be fooled, and let us not be silenced.
They will start by figuring out how to increase their profit without inciting protests on the street, so it will be a gradual decrease for us and increase for them, taking away our money, access to information, and ability to organize in our communities. Gradually our freedoms will be usurped so that we will barely notice. Below are three examples of how this could play out, and why we should be very, very worried.
- Stifled competition for small business: Internet companies will be able to speed up websites for companies that are willing, or able, to pay for it. So, if you want to create a website to advertise your startup business, but you can’t afford to pay what Walmart does, then you may have to settle for a webpage that is so slow it will turn away business. Say goodbye to innovation without the prior approval and domination of multinational corporations that work hand-in-glove with our privatized government.
- Bundled Packages: In the same way that cable companies bundle television channels (i.e. HBO, Showtime, Cinemax), soon we’ll be “offered” packages to make us “feel” like we’re paying less because we “choose” not to use certain websites. Perhaps you decide, for example, that you don’t need the package for Instagram, Snapchat, and Pandora. We don’t have to guess where that road will lead. Does anyone really think they’re paying less for cable these days since the creative television bundling has been forced upon us? In fact, our only recourse against this price-gouging has been Net Freedom that allowed startups like Netflix and Youtube to compete and give consumers options.
- Censorship: When internet providers can creatively decide what websites you can have access to by pricing out small business and offering different types of bundles depending on what area you live in, we will be blocked from access to information. That information is what we use to learn outside the classroom and mainstream media; it’s what we use to communicate within and beyond our local communities; it’s how we organize against an all too powerful government. This will naturally target middle and lower-class communities. Say goodbye to our already dissolving 1st Amendment right to free speech. Say goodbye to the growing independent news industry.
If we continue failing to explain how this seemingly complex issue is actually straightforward, and critical to democracy, then we are going to lose far more than access to certain websites.
Unfortunately, the people who have the power to stop this won’t because they’re the ones doing this to us. In January of this year, Trump appointed Ajit Pai, who has been openly in favor of taking away Net Freedom, to be Chairman of the FCC. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan have the power to help overturn the FCC’s decision, they have both issued statements in support of taking away our Net Freedom. This is all despite the fact that 90% of their own base of Republican voters disagree with them.
Being aware is not enough. It is time that we (in the words of my cousin) become pumped, pissed, and passionate. It is time that we take bold action, together, regardless of party affiliation. We must fight for everyone’s right to freedom and liberty from the tyranny of those who have convinced themselves that they have a right to maximize their profits at the expense of one of the most American innovations of all time: an open and free internet. Americans have always been willing to fight for freedom, so maybe if we start talking about this issue for what it is, then we can in fact create the revolution we need.