Now Is the Time to Worry About Net Neutrality

The new head of the FCC is interested in undoing rules that protect free speech, fairness, and privacy on the internet. Digital rights advocate Karen Fasimpaur asks for your help in stopping this rollback.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Federal Communications Commission is accepting comments on a proposal to rescind net-neutrality regulations that the commission enacted in 2015. The current rules prevent internet-service providers from giving special treatment to some content over others. Net neutrality opponents (which include major telecommunication corporations and some rural internet providers) say the rules are costing them profits that could be reinvested in rural broadband infrastructure. Net neutrality advocates, who have organized a national action day for July 12, say net neutrality ensures that ideas and commerce can compete head to head on a level playing field.  This article is adapted from a post by Karen Fasimpaur, who does online organizing and communications for the National Rural Assembly. Disclosure: The National Rural Assembly is managed by the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder.

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Activists around the country have declared July 12, 2017, as a day of action around “net neutrality.” Karen Fasimpur is a digital-rights activists who does online organizing and communication for the National Rural Assembly.

Net neutrality, again?

Yes, many of us are feeling “policy fatigue” around this issue, having won a great victory on this front in 2015, and now having to fight the fight all over again as the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has announced plans to undo rules that protect free speech on the Internet and allow giant internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon to control what you see, do, and say online.

There are so many important policy battles to fight right now — is net neutrality really that important?

Yes, because net neutrality isn’t just about technical details of how the Internet works; it’s about freedom and openness. It’s about providing equity to underserved populations, including those in rural areas. It’s about education, healthcare, and economic development. Perhaps most importantly it’s about giving a voice to political groups, activists, and everyday citizens who want to share ideas using channels other than those controlled by the traditional gatekeepers.

The time to act is now. The FCC is accepting comments on its proposed rollback of these rules until July 17. Two years ago, record numbers of comments affected policy positively, and we need to do that again. We need to pressure the FCC and Congress and show that the public won’t stand for this handout to big cable companies. Here are a few easy tools you can use to make your voice heard:

Also July 12 is being designated as an Internet-wide day of action to save net neutrality. Please spread the word on this day through your organizational and personal web and social media sites.

In addition, the Center for Rural Strategies is co-hosting the Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit, bringing together key players, including FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, to brainstorm strategies for bringing broadband access to our rural communities. This event will be held on July 18 in Marietta, Ohio. More information is available here.

You can also sign up for Rural Broadband Policy Group email listserv here.

Thank you for your help in amplifying the importance of this critical issue.

 

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