How much have you already used the Internet today?
We don't think twice about how much we rely on the Internet. Imagine not being able to map directions on Google or check the weather online. A business that doesn't have a Web site? Forgettable. Or rather, unsearchable. Remember when we didn't have e-mail? Would you want to go back to those Dark Ages? Me neither.
The Internet is in the very fabric of how we communicate, learn, shop, conduct business, organize, innovate and engage. If we lost it, we'd be lost.
But did you know that we're at risk of losing the Internet as we know it? Millions of Americans don't know that a battle over the future of the Internet is being played out right now in Washington. How it ends will have deep repercussions for decades to come.
On one side are public interest and consumer groups, small businesses, Internet entrepreneurs, librarians, civil libertarians and civil rights groups who want to preserve the Internet as it is - the last remaining open communications platform where anyone with access and a computer can create and consume online content.
Right now a film student in Idaho can upload a video the same way a Hollywood movie studio can. A small upstart company can launch a brilliant idea that challenges the Fortune 500. An independent journalist can break a story without waiting for a newspaper to run or print it.
The principle of "Network Neutrality" is what makes this open communications possible. Net Neutrality is what allows us to go wherever we want online. Our relationship with the phone and cable companies stops when we pay for our Internet service. These companies can not block, control or interfere with what we search for or create online; nor can they prioritize some content over others -making the Hollywood video load faster than the kid's video in Idaho.
On the other side are the Internet service providers, who want to dismantle Net Neutrality. Not only do they want to provide Internet service, but they want to be able to charge users to prioritize their content, effectively giving themselves the ability to choose which content on the Web loads fast, slow or not at all. The film student, the small entrepreneur, and the independent journalist will be lost in the ether, unable to compete with other, more established companies who can pay for a spot in the fast lane.
Gone is the level playing field. Gone is the multitude of voices on the Web. Gone is the Internet as we know it - unless we act now.
The Federal Communications Commission is crafting new Net Neutrality rules right now. The public has until Thursday at midnight to tell the FCC what we value about the Internet, and why we want the agency to create a strong Net Neutrality rule to protect it.
I'm filing my comments today, and I have to admit, it's a little tough -- not because I'm at a loss for words, but because there's so much to say.
I'm filing because:
- An open Internet gives me freedom of expression - freedom to write and share my views and the freedom to find alternative viewpoints;
- I want other, smarter people to come up with the next Google, the next YouTube, the next Web application that I can't even imagine;
- I want to read about people and cultures that are different from me;
- Mainstream media make me scream expletives, and I use the Internet to find alternative sources of news and information;
- I want to e-mail my boyfriend a link to a picture that reminds me of our last vacation;
- Net Neutrality means I don't need anyone's permission to create my own videos, and media execs aren't determining what's funny - we are;
- I come up with potential million-dollar ideas all the time, and some day, I just might start my own business;
- An open Internet feeds the activist in me, allowing me to engage with my community and organize for social change online;
- It's winter and I'd rather shop online, only I still want to support a local business;
- I needed advice on how to prime and paint a room, and found a video online that taught me how to do it; and,
- I don't want to be censored.
This is why I'm filing. Why are you? If you care about how the Internet impacts and boosts your life, and if you care about how the Internet could evolve in years to come, it's essential that you tell the FCC by Thursday.