Monday, January 27, 2014

Net Neutrality: Goodbye Free Speech?

Imagine a world in which access to your favorite websites and apps is determined by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — a world in which AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast can slow or even block online content and services they don’t like while speeding up access to those they favor.

Does this sound like a nightmare? Well, wake up — that’s the world we now live in ever since a federal court struck down "net neutrality," the rules that guarantee a free and open Internet.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could nullify the court decision by simply changing the way they classify Internet service. It’s a simple fix, but you can bet that AT&T, Verizon, and others will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that doesn’t happen.

That’s why it’s so important that you speak out now: if enough of us call on the FCC to act, we can pressure their new leader Tom Wheeler to do what’s best for the public — not for corporate profits.

Tell the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet and start enforcing net neutrality rules. We’ll deliver your petitions to the FCC on Thursday!

Net neutrality is the doctrine that all data that flows over the Internet ought to be treated the same. It means that people should be able to access your personal blog or your new online business just as easily as they access the websites of the wealthiest businesses. Net neutrality is the reason the Internet is so diverse and powerful. Anyone with a good idea can find their audience online, regardless of whether there's money to be made from it.

This simple idea is what allowed the community to grow and thrive online — thanks to the low cost of starting up online, we were able to share our messages with Latino communities and our allies of every race and ethnicity. A free and open Internet helped us take down Lou Dobbs and protest onerous anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and beyond.

But broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T want to reap even bigger profits by speeding up access to websites and apps that can afford to access the fast lane while slowing down or even blocking access to those that can’t afford to pay. In that environment, Presente could never have even gotten off the ground.

Even worse, without net neutrality you can kiss free speech goodbye — broadband companies are now free to discriminate against websites and apps with political or social messages they disagree with. The Internet could become more like newspapers or radio, where the ISPs consider themselves publishers who get to control what content shows up on their networks.

Luckily, every dark cloud has a silver lining: in this case it’s that the appeals court didn’t strike down net neutrality — it only struck down the FCC’s ability to enforce the rule. By reclassifying broadband so that it’s in the same category as telephone service, the FCC could once again ensure a free and open Internet for everyone.

The future of the Internet is at stake — that’s why we’ll be joining our friends at Free Press, ColorOfChange, CREDO Action, and others in delivering your petitions to the FCC on Thursday. It’s crucial that you speak out today.

Tell the FCC to use its authority to restore Net Neutrality to protect our community from Internet discrimination!

Thanks and ¡adelante!
Arturo, Roberto, Jesús, Erick, Erica ,Refugio and the rest of the Team

There are not easy solutions

For April Glaser, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the issue is not easy.

“Violations of network neutrality are a real and serious problem: in recent years we have seen dozens of ISPs in the U.S. and around the world interfere with and discriminate against traffic on their networks in ways that threaten the innovative fabric of the Internet.

At the same time, we’ve long doubted that the FCC had the authority to issue the Open Internet rules in the first place, and we worried that the rules would lead to the FCC gaining broad control over the Internet. The FCC in particular has a poor track record of regulating our communications services. We are not confident that Internet users can trust the FCC, or any government agency, with open-ended regulatory authority of the Internet.

Look at what happened with radio and television. Though it’s charged to regulate our media landscape in the best interest of the public, the FCC opened the doors to unforeseen levels of media consolidation. That consolidation has contributed to the gutting of newsrooms and a steep decline in diversity of viewpoints and local voices on the air, as independent broadcasters across the country shut down, unable to compete with big media monopolies. One of the best protections for the open Internet is probably more competition among ISPs, but the FCC’s history doesn’t leave us hopeful that it is the right entity to help create and defend a competitive Internet marketplace.”

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