Killing Net Neutrality will fundamentally change the way we organize, work and build movements. In a bad way.
Without Net Neutrality, we would not have the same access to information and in turn, would be served only the content that our Internet Service Providers (ISPs) deem profitable. Killing Net Neutrality, as FCC Chair Ajit Pai intends to do on December 14, 2017, would empower each ISP to apply granular control over internet content and access, as well as its cost. This new way of controlling internet access in the U.S. will radically affect how we work, inform and build our progressive movements.
The cornerstone of the work progressives do is lifting up the voices that otherwise go unheard. Our work is about more than just winning elections or advocating for progressive causes—it’s about enabling millions to participate in the democratic process. The proposed net neutrality repeal is entirely counterintuitive to this goal.
We take for granted the ubiquity of the internet, the many services we use, the way we connect to those services and the data they allow us to transfer between each other. The loss of Net Neutrality protections has the potential to dramatically limit progressives’ day-to-day operations.
Here are just a few examples:
Online Messaging Will Be More Expensive
Progressive movements grow by engaging more and more people. ISPs have long dreamed of creating internet fast-lanes, which would require website owners to pay an ISP for optimal loading times. We already know from user analytics that increased page load times decrease visitor engagement. Without Net Neutrality, the result will be that website owners will have to pay off multiple ISPs — including all cell-phone data providers in a targeted area— to engage with their audience. Down Ballot candidates will be priced out of communicating with their voters, and grassroots organizations will have the odds further stacked against them, forcing them to accept help from deep pockets.
Fewer File Sharing Options
Even a simple, file-sharing cloud service could become costly or unmanageable. Some ISPs may block Dropbox to force you to use Google Drive; others may partner with Box.com, blocking access to both Dropbox and Google Drive or block them all in favor of the ISPs own proprietary new file sharing service. These services may become exclusive to a single carrier where you can share files with your team from your smartphone and your office, but not from your home.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) Use Could Be Limited
You may be working in a high-security environment where Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are required. If your ISP decides there’s more money in tracking and logging your communication, they may block the use of VPNs on their network, which would make it impossible to work from coffee shops, hotel rooms or even your home.
Accessing Your Message (Or Any Message) Will Be More Expensive for Supporters
Limited access will also make things difficult on the supporter side. Even if candidates and organizations are able to pay for fast-lane access, they will still be dependent on the audience being able to afford access. Just as cable providers charge premiums for sports packages, niche channels, and premium movie channels, ISPs will have the same authority over the internet. Websites could be categorized and access to them could be sold as packages or add-ons. ISPs could force exclusivity on their customers through partnerships with media companies and platforms. Data transfer from popular mobile applications could be crippled, throttled or blocked altogether. The open-web could essentially become inaccessible to the majority of Americans.
Those in power don’t think we’re paying attention. It’s up to us to prove them wrong by contacting our representatives. As we’ve already done on so many issues in the past year, let’s make a case to elected officials that if they won’t protect our interest, we’ll elect new ones that will.
Just a few of many progressive causes that probably wouldn’t have started without an open internet:
Jeff Rummel is Director of Custom Web Development at Revolution Messaging.