Net Neutrality Is Important to YOU

Your daily routine is at risk.

I said that to get your attention. But it is not hyperbole. Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC, has decided against all public, non-corporate advice, to rescind the rules that that protect Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the principle that all Internet providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Certain large communications corporations want the neutrality rules dropped so that, as they put it, they can enable “fast lanes” for certain Internet traffic. The problem with that is that, if “fast lanes” are allowed, that necessarily means that other traffic – yours – will be put into the left-over, slow lanes. You cannot have “fast” without a corresponding “slow.” Furthermore, because the corporations will be allowed to decide which traffic will be fast, and which will be slow, that means that, no matter how much they assure us otherwise, they can arbitrarily decide what content gets to travel on the Internet. (Think politics, retail competition, social network competitors, and so on endlessly.)

Almost everything we do, every service we receive, purchase we make, whatever and wherever, depends on access to the Internet. Things as mundane as swiping your debit card at the grocery store, or when the cash register bar code scanner checks the price of the items you’re buying. And then there are emails, social media, streaming movies, online games, uploading photos, Vonage calls, and all of that. These things, and many thousands more, depend on and require unfettered access to the Internet.

The Internet needs to be neutral. It must be open and unrestricted for whatever traffic needs or wants to travel on it.

Internet neutrality rules ensure that everyone’s digital traffic gets the same, first-come-first-served access to the fastest route available to wherever it is going.

This neutrality is crucial to all of us getting what we expect, and what we need, from the Internet.

The infrastructure of the Internet is privately owned by corporations, but we, the users, all pay for the Internet with the access fees that we pay to our Internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast or Verizon.

Our governments, including the U.S. Government, are just customers; the same as you and me.

The Internet backbone is crucial public infrastructure, no matter who owns a given piece.

The folks who want to influence the flow of the Internet promise that they will only manipulate the things that we agree that they can control.

But that already isn’t so. For example, Comcast says that their Internet service is fast and open, but anyone around Pawling who’s tried to get “HBO Go” or “Showtime Anytime” on their Comcast Internet connection knows that Comcast is already restricting access to Internet services that it doesn’t want to compete with.

Comcast, or Verizon DSL or any other Internet service provider, could just as easily block your emails, your store credit card machine, your online orders, political messages, or whatever it liked.

A local business might find their ads or promotions obstructed in favor of a competitor, or “just because.”

The net can’t be a little bit neutral. My Visa card swipe can’t be handled differently from your Amex swipe. Your email can’t be handled differently from mine.

Despite overwhelming public support for net neutrality, the chairman of the FCC has unilaterally decided to end net neutrality. It is important that you, as an Internet user, let Mr. Pai know that you need and want Net Neutrality protected. You can call him and leave a message at (202) 418-1000.

More important, let your congressional representatives know that net neutrality is important and that it should be defended. And let your state legislators know, too, and let your city and village governments know (they make the local franchise contracts with the cable companies). Now.

Later, when net neutrality is safe, we can all get together on social networking to celebrate.

Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at: