To fully understand how the death of Net Neutrality will harm Social Justice organizations and impact the ability of grassroots organizations to thrive, one must first understand what it is. In 2015, during the Obama administration, the FCC adopted rules to keep the Internet free and open. Prohibiting Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T from dictating at what speeds you can access content and whether you can access it at all. The great majority of the public has supported Net Neutrality. Republican legislators, many of whom receive monetary donations from the ISP’s do not.
Because most of us are used to a free and open Internet, we have no concept of what the loss of Net Neutrality means in practical terms. Let’s look at what ISP’s have already attempted to do before courts and now FCC Rules turned them back.
From 2007-2009, AT&T made Apple block Skype services, Google Net, and related services because they might compete with AT&T. In 2010, Windstream hijacked search queries of Firefox users, directing them to Windstream’s portal and results in spite of how the user set their search engine. In 2011, Metro PCS blocked any streaming service except for YouTube. Imagine if you or your organization went live on Black Junction or even Facebook and your message couldn’t get out to Metro PCS users.
From 2011-2013, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint blocked Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that competed with one the three firms were developing. In 2012, AT&T disabled a FaceTime video calling app unless users subscribed to a more expensive text and voice plan. All these things were stopped with the advent of Net Neutrality and without it are likely to return.
This could easily be seen as a high-tech issue but it can also turn into a high-tech lynching like the one Clarence Thomas once imagined. What if Social Justice organizations lost the ability to get out their message, alerting the community of events that might otherwise go underreported and barely noticed. In 2012, in response to a constant narrative blaming the victim across the media. An organization started by three women was formed and because of free and uncensored access to the Internet was able to get their message out and start a movement. That “victim” was Trayvon Martin and the organization was Black Lives Matter. In a post-Net Neutrality world, their voice might never have been heard.
Rashad Robinson, the Executive Director of Color of Change said,
“Chairman Pai’s plan to gut the FCC’s net neutrality rules will devastate Black communities. Net neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open Internet, which has been crucial to today’s fights for civil rights and equality. Our ability to have our voices heard in this democracy depends on an open Internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance, rather than financial backing. Net neutrality ensures that the Internet is a place for innovation and opportunity for all, rather than just the wealthy few.”
Imagine a world where the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Together We Stand, the National Action Network, Color of Change, National Council of La Raza, Race Forward, National Council of Negro Women, the National Congress of American Indian and many other groups could no longer get the word out? These organizations depend on access to the Internet both to get their message out and to fundraise to support their very existence. There are those that think that kind of world with no resistance to their programming would be a good thing. They are the ones supporting the end of Net Neutrality.
Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling and more are the names you never would have said if the word didn’t get out. Suppose your request for information on something you heard about only returned an error message like, “Page Not Found.” The end of Net Neutrality would mean that others will determine what messages are allowed to be heard and seen and by whom. It’s about race, it’s about money, and it’s about power.
Stand up and be counted in resistance to the FCC’s plans to end Net Neutrality, Sign the Change.Org Petition to let the FCC and Congress know that the people do not support this change. If Social Justice isn’t enough to motivate you, imagine paying more to access YouTube or shop online. It gives control of what you can do online to large corporations.
The Republican-controlled FCC is resisting attempts to delay the vote to end Net Neutrality, scheduled for December 14, 2017. They prefer to rush the vote through, following the model of Republican legislators in the House and Senate while pursuing Tax Change and the end of Obamacare. Let them know you support an open Internet.
Featured Photo: colorofchange.org