On December 21, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take a long-awaited and historic vote determining whether President Obama’s promise to preserve the Internet as the most democratic medium in communication history will be honored. What’s at stake? Network Neutrality — known to many as the Internet’s bill of rights.
To break it down, Net Neutrality means Internet service providers are not allowed to discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. If the FCC votes in favor of Net Neutrality, the rules they create would prevent the kind of online blocking Comcast just did to Netflix, ban the creation of corporate pay-to-play toll roads, and provide the only Internet consumer protections available. It would also make sure wireless users are equally protected by net neutrality provisions.
For more than 40 years, a policy of Net Neutrality has guaranteed a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies, regardless of content or source. Profit-seeking lobbyists from AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon want to privatize the Internet, threatening vital access to the open Internet we depend on.
This means that the largest telephone and cable companies want to be Internet gatekeepers. Big network giants believe they should be able to charge website operators, application providers, and device manufacturers for the right to use the network.
Under their rule, those who don’t want to “pay-to-play” will experience discrimination: their sites won’t load as quickly, their applications and devices won’t work as well, or they will simply be blocked, as evidenced by Comcast’s recent threat to block Netflix unless it pays a new fee that would increase Netflix’s prices and drive users to Comcast’s video service instead.
Despite AT&T’s false rhetoric that regulating broadband will threaten jobs, it’s not AT&T that makes up the San Antonio economy. Many small businesses in San Antonio rely on the Net to direct traffic to their stores or sell products and services. Local musicians connect with their fans without barriers online. The job-seeking unemployed are dependent on the Internet to re-enter the job market.
As consumers, we must remain in ultimate control, deciding for ourselves between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network.
The question must be asked: what would San Antonio look like if there were barriers, roadblocks, and impediments to vital online information? How would increased fees or decreased access affect our service-based economy?
The people of Texas face two possible futures: to be, or not to be represented online.
The decision is in the hands of the FCC. Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Clyburn and Copps have the opportunity to fulfill President Obama’s 2007 historic promise to write the next chapter in American innovation. Innovation, growth, and development are only possible by keeping the Internet we’ve all grown to love open.
To send a letter to FCC Commissioner Clyburn asking her to keep the Internet open, or for more information on the Media Action Grassroots Network, visit •.
San Antonio residents and media justice activists DeAnne Cuellar and Rebecca Ohnemus blog throughout the week at blogs.sacurrent.com. They welcome your questions and feedback and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tech Tease on Twitter at @thetechtease.