Net neutrality is currently a hot topic in the United States, but it’s something that, if not protected, could very well affect internet users across the globe.
Now is the time for everyone — yes, you — to take action to help preserve the internet as we know it. This means contacting the FCC and your state representatives via email and/or via phone. It takes very little time to do so, and we will explain how below.
What Is Net Neutrality?
First, it’s important that you understand why this is an important issue. I suggest reading this basic primer on net neutrality at Business Insider – it explains the issue clearly, in plain language. If you have 13 minutes and like to laugh while you are educated on political matters, watch John Oliver’s excellent 13-minute take on net neutrality. Also, below, the explanation of a “fast lane” provides a pretty good idea of what is at the heart of this issue.
What Is the FCC Seeking Comment On?
Right now, the FCC is asking for comments on three basic questions. I am going to quote Reddit user NikkoE82, who has provided a great summary of what the FCC is looking for, as well as a simple explanation as to what these questions mean (which also generally addresses what net neutrality is all about):
1) Should fast lanes be banned?
2) Should broadband providers be classified as Title II Common Carriers?
3) Should these same rules apply to wireless (mobile) providers?
Your comment doesn’t need to be written in legalese or be a tome. Just speak what you feel. If you think personal experience is relevant, use it. Above all, be polite.
EDIT 2: A quick ELI5 on these three questions. I’m no expert, so please feel free to correct or modify these.
1) On the Internet, every website loads at the same rate as any other website. In principle, this let’s websites thrive based solely on the service/information they provide and not on how fast their content loads. ISPs (i.e., Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T) want to change that by charging websites for faster load times in a “fast lane.” This gives an edge to any website with deep pockets and hurts smaller, start-up websites. Not to mention the potential for abuse by slowing down undesirable information (i.e., websites that are pro-net neutrality).
2) A common carrier is a person or company that delivers goods to the public and is responsible for any loss of said goods on the way. Think water companies and electric companies. Title II common carriers are telecommunications providers. Your basic landline telephone service. This is why when you call someone on the phone, you get the same quality of signal as when you call anyone else. Because the telephone companies can’t favor anyone. Right now, ISPs aren’t classified this way. Doing so would make fast lanes illegal.
3) Take the above two and apply it to your smartphone.
How Can I Contact the FCC?
The easiest way to contact the FCC is via email: [email protected]. If you wish to call the FCC and speak to a live person, call 1-888-225-5322, and then press 1, 4, 0. The FCC opens at 8 am EST.
What Should I Say?
Here is the email I sent to the FCC today. I based it on various “scripts” I found online, and modified it slightly according to my own feelings on the matter. You can use it the same way if you wish:
Hello, I am writing to express my concern regarding net neutrality and the efforts currently being made to undermine this principle.
Internet Service Providers believe they have a lot to gain monetarily by destroying the internet as we now know it, and if they are given their way, the vast majority of Americans (and perhaps the rest of the world, which may follow suit), from users to small business entrepreneurs, will suffer. Service providers will suffer, especially those operated by communities, and the established under-performing, over-charging monopolies will grow in strength and cement their foothold.
Please fight against the “fast lane,” and please work to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers to protect our right to an open internet with equal access for all. The long-term effects of not doing so will be disastrous.
You can also use this as a basis for what to say if you call in. Remember to be polite. And again, use your own opinions. If you own a business that may be hurt by the destruction of net neutrality or the creation of fast lanes, mention it.
What Else Can I Do?
Call or email Congress in your state. Here is a link to find your representatives and here is a link to find your state senators.
Stay updated on the issue — as of July 15, 2014, a number of internet giants are pressing for net neutrality.
If you have any further ideas, corrections on what I’ve published here, or any other comments, please comment below!