What is Net Neutrality And Why Is It Important?

 
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I'm assuming you're probably reading this article on our website and that you're most likely using your phone or computer to do it. I'm also assuming that this isn't the only time you'll be using the internet today. You might be planning on streaming a movie tonight or uploading photos of your dinner and your cat to Facebook. But what if you didn't have access to those websites or you had to pay more to access them at all? What if the movies you used to stream with no problem suddenly became glitchy and hard to watch? This is where the issue of Net Neutrality comes in. You may have seen that term floating around a lot but what does it really mean? 

Wikipedia defines it like this: "Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers and governments regulating most of the Internet must treat all data on the internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content."

This concept keeps the internet open and accessible to everyone. Without these protections the ISP's would be free to charge and regulate their services as they see fit. Think of it like having a cable or satellite TV plan. You have the base cost for your subscription but then you have to pay to access various channels. This is what could potentially happen with the internet and websites if the FCC changes Net Neutrality. Ajit Pai is the head of the FCC and wants to move forward with these changes very soon. The final vote will be December 14th so there is very limited time to take action. 

 What the internet could look like without Net Neutrality (Image from Destructoid)

What the internet could look like without Net Neutrality (Image from Destructoid)

So what can we do about it? The biggest effect we can have on this decision is to make our voices heard. Call, fax, email, write a letter, or tweet your elected officials and tell them to take a stand. Do these things today because if you don't, it could be too late. The website Battle For The Internet is a great place to find out who you need to call and what you can say to them. For a clearer breakdown on the timeline of this discussion and what the FCC is trying to do, I recommend you watch these videos from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. If podcasts are more your thing, listen to the latest episode from Pod Save America. You can also join the in person protests that will be happening at Verizon stores around the country.