net neutrality explained
source: Instagram

UPDATE: Net neutrality supporters are calling for a Day of Action on July 12, 2017.

The website “Battle for the Net” made the announcement on their website:

“Websites, Internet users, and online communities will come together to sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality. We’ll provide tools for everyone to make it super easy for your followers / visitors to take action. From the SOPA blackout to the Internet Slowdown, we’ve shown time and time again that when the Internet comes together, we can stop censorship and corruption. Now, we have to do it again!”

Companies who support this motion include Amazon, Etsy, Vimeo, the ACLU, and many others.

If you are interested in supporting this day of action, visit their website and sign up for alerts.

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You may read the words “net neutrality” and immediately fall sleep. It is admittedly not the jazziest phrase, and its backstory is a little confusing. However, net neutrality is an issue that will only grow increasingly important with the current administration. We all need to care more about it.

I had no idea that this issue even existed up until a few years ago when a girl in one of my classes gave a presentation on the topic. I was astounded. If you’re still a little unsure what it is or why you should care, read on.

In an overly-simplified nutshell, net neutrality ensures that your Internet Service Provider (or ISP, i.e. Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) can’t play favorites. This means, for example, that your provider can’t pick favorite customers or sites, and intentionally slow down or block access to other sites or customers. Obama-era legislation created stricter regulations to the Communications Act so that net neutrality would remain protected. This is because we want open access to the Internet and a level-playing field. Because duh. But that might not always be the case.

A real-life example of this comes from 2013. In that year, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon launched a mobile payment app (called Isis….yikes), and blocked Google Wallet on customer’s phones. By forcing out the competition, they made their mobile payment app the only option. John Oliver actually cited this scenario on a recent episode of his show. Another explanation Oliver gave (this one is fictitious, but a solid explanation), is that without net neutrality, if your ISP had a preferred search engine, they could slow access to another. So for example, if Verizon preferred Bing (i.e. if they were an investor or partner), they could severely slow down and limit your access to Google if Verizon is your ISP. Sounds shady to me.

In fact, it is Oliver’s piece that inspired me to write this article, because net neutrality is something that shocked me way back when, but then I forgot about it. We can’t simply push this away, and Oliver reminds viewers of this.

Besides not wanting to allow ISPs to have this control, John explains that the Trump administration might roll-back Obama-era net neutrality rules on equal access. Trump’s newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to “take a weed whacker to current FCC rules”. Pai himself stated that he thinks net neutrality’s days are numbered.

The scary thing is that Oliver points out that Trump literally does not understand all this net neutrality and Internet regulation discussion. So more than likely, he’ll just agree with what Pai says. For us, that means our ISP’s might have the ability to manipulate the choices we make. Who wants that?

The best thing we can do now is what we must do for a number of issues: stay informed, stay vocal. Listen to the news and keep up-to-date on rulings involving net neutrality. Call your reps when it comes to a vote. Things are not looking good, and comments are necessary.

I encourage you to watch Oliver’s piece in full to get a better understanding of this issue and why it matters. Watch it while we still have high-speed internet and full access to the websites we want.

Allie Bush is a Contributing Writer at Femestella. She is interested in creating and sharing entertaining and engaging content, in whatever form it may take. She is a proud TV junkie and in her spare time can be found watching late night talk shows, talking about Chrissy Teigen or Amy Poehler, or eating off of other people’s plates.