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Net Neutrality Is Important Shit

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Leon casino, By Kyle Nazario

You should be worried about the future of the internet. If we don’t take action now, the internet will become as slow and irritating as cable TV.

The Federal Communications Commission began public comment on a plan that would end net neutrality on May 15.

“We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet,” said FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler. “What we’re dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. We are asking for specific comment on different approaches to accomplish the same goal, an open Internet.”

Others have taken a less generous view of the FCC’s idea, saying it does not protect the open internet.

“The proposal could negatively impact consumer prices, choices and access to the internet, as well as free speech and innovation,” said Consumers Union in a statement.

Consumers Union is right. We need to let the FCC know that this plan is very, very bad.

What’s Net Neutrality?

The internet works like this. Websites (like Google, Facebook or Netflix) send you search results or pictures of your friends drinking or episodes of Breaking Bad. These bits of data run through your internet provider. For Houston residents, that means Comcast, AT&T, Clear or Sprint.

Those internet service providers are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC. The FCC covers stuff like TV, radio, and the internet.

The old FCC rules said that every internet service provider had to treat all data equally. It couldn’t make any one website run slower than another. That’s called net neutrality.

Net neutrality forced internet service providers to deliver information from every website equally, from large ones to small ones. New companies got the same speeds as old ones. Net neutrality helped build the awesome internet we have today.

And last Thursday, the FCC proposed getting rid of it.

Why Aren’t We Using This?

The problem with net neutrality is that the internet service providers hate it. They hate having to deliver everyone’s traffic for the same cost.

Netflix is the best example. Everybody’s favorite video-streaming service takes up one-third of the traffic on the entire internet. All those videos vaccuum up bandwidth.

Verizon, Comcast and the like want to charge companies extra for using more bandwidth. They want to get extra money out of big names like Netflix and Google to make up for all the extra data they use.

This seems acceptable on the surface. People who use more should pay more, right?

Except that these are cable companies. They’re untrustworthy by their very nature. Ask Netflix and they’ll say the companies are misrepresenting the situation. Comcast did take home the title of Worst Company in America from The Consumerist this year.

Give cable companies more control over the internet and they’ll abuse it. They’ve done it already, and they’ll do it again.

No More Netflix

Net neutrality’s fate will affect you. If media companies have to pay more to stream, we may not get as many cool internet services in the future.

Imagine if Spotify never launched in America because Comcast was trying to charge it more for streaming songs. If Netflix couldn’t succeed because it streamed too much video. If iTunes wasn’t a thing because too many people were downloading songs.

“Individually and collectively, [the FCC’s plans] pose a dire threat to the engine of innovation that has allowed hackers, startup companies, and kids in their college dorm rooms to make the Internet that we know and love today,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote.

Remember, the best tech companies usually start small. Jeff Bezos literally ran Amazon out of his garage in Seattle when it began.

If net neutrality goes down, the internet as we know it will cease to exist. Instead, we’ll get a restricted environment where entrenched interests can pay to win, but upstarts can’t. The next big thing in America might get stuck in the slow lane.

Net neutrality is critically important to keeping the internet as it is: a crazy place where a Harvard undergraduate can make a social network with more than a billion users.

What Can We Do?

Contact your representative in Congress if you want to fight net neutrality. Sending letters to your congressman really works when a lot of people do it.

For Houston, you can use this map to find your representative. Send them an email or call their office and tell them you oppose the FCC proposal and would like to support net neutrality. Alternatively, visit DearFCC.org to write to the FCC directly.

Get out there. Let’s save the internet.

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