“If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” John Oliver
The biggest problem with Net Neutrality is that it is incredibly important, but it sounds incredibly boring. Knowing that, I will do my best to be brief and unboring as possible while I convince you that you really need to care about this, regardless of your income, political leanings, or level of nerdiness.
Let us begin.
Since the internet started, it has been a playground for our Id. It is filled with the terrible and the wonderful, and the most frightening AND promising part of it is its inherent democracy – all of the information is granted equal access. Like any human endeavour, is not always flattering, but it has always been relatively free and open. If you want to put up a video of yourself dressing up your cats like dogs, you can do that. If you want to put up a video of your cat dressing YOU up as a dog, you can do that. And other regular people get to decide if it is worth watching.
Eventually, as is their way, internet companies saw an opportunity to make more money by controlling this access. To counter this, Net Neutrality rules and laws were put into place around the world. The purpose was to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) couldn’t manipulate access to content in order to benefit financially. For instance, if you get your internet from Shaw, Shaw couldn’t slow your internet speed to Netflix while prioritizing speed to Amazon. Or, as companies like Telus have been caught doing in the past, they couldn’t block access to a union website.
To be clear, to the vast majority of humans, Net Neutrality is a good thing. The only benefit to getting rid of Net Neutrality will be seen by the internet providers. No, seriously. This isn’t politically-charged propaganda – there is genuinely no benefit to consumers to getting rid of Net Neutrality whatsoever. Repealing Net Neutrality is WILDLY unpopular. This is one of those causes that have almost unanimous support from the people who weren’t too bored to learn about it – threatening Net Neutrality is almost comically unifying. Most corporations are against it. Almost all people are against it. I even walked past a group of squirrels the other day that I swear were wearing “I Love Net Neutrality” shirts. Or maybe it was Nut Neutrality. But I digress…
On the 14th of December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US is meant to decide whether to repeal Net Neutrality, and make it possible for ISPs to create fast and slow lanes for internet traffic (deciding for you what you should watch or look at or use on the internet).
If all of this is happening in the States, then, why should we care?
Canada has reiterated its commitment to maintaining Net Neutrality. The problem? A great deal of our content is created and controlled in the United States – what they decide will literally affect the world wide web.
In addition, there may be some issues with our free trade agreements with the United States, and we may be forced to follow suit (or our equally greedy providers will use this as precedent and push for the same here). We will also most likely have many of the costs for “fast lane” services passed on to us by companies like Netflix, who will have to “pay to play”. And when I think of all of the cool start ups that we will never see if Net Neutrality is repealed, I get really quite bummed. I am still waiting for Tatr, an on-demand mashed potato delivery service, to launch.
Keep encouraging your friends to the south to join the campaigns to support Net Neutrality. Talk to your government about the importance about putting our rules here at home into law. Talk about it with your friends. Buy up media conglomerates and force them to stop being evil.
It is critical to keep online access equal. There is really no part of the alternative which will make your life better. Plus, what if they take away access to dog memes!?
*update: the December 14th decision may be delayed until another court decision comes in. Stay tuned for updates!