Fight for Net Neutrality

19 Nov

Originally posted to the Community section of MyMedia

The fight for equal access to the internet is not limited to ensuring that companies cannot prioritize speed (and price it accordingly).

Because access to the internet has not yet been definitely and permanently classified as a utility, such as water or power, structural access to broadband internet has been largely in the hands of private companies.

Since corporations exist exclusively to make money for stakeholders, no one should be surprised that poor communities in this country have as little access to broadband as some of the poorest countries in the world.

A government’s function, at least in a democracy, is to provide essential services to all its citizens, not only to those who can afford them.

In an increasingly digitized and interconnected world, access to the web is essential. Poor, small, and/or remote communities with no local library branch, or where the existing one is small and poorly funded, benefit enormously from affordable/free access to the internet (as do those same small libraries and schools).

Hence, Lifeline, a federal program that subsidizes broadband access and phone service for poor households.

However, the FCC, under current administration, is keen not only on prioritizing web speed, so that corporations can make more money (which also allows interested parties to control who see what), but also on basically denying access to the web to the needy, by rolling back Lifeline.

Some people may not see why this is a problem, or why providing access to the internet is a civic matter.

Here’s why: think about how much of what you do every day, you do online (and how many of these are routinely done using smartphones*)

Pay bills.
Shop, for anything from luxuries to necessities.
File and pay taxes.
Enroll in health care.
Apply for employment.
Renew car tag.
Renew driver’s license.
Schedule doctors’ appointments.
Check local ordinances/laws.
Pay speeding or other traffic fines.
Online classes.
Submit school assignments.
Enroll children in school.
Check school schedule.
Check syllabi, book and school material lists.
Check your polling place.
Check voting schedule.
Read candidates’ positions, programs, platforms.
Check the news.
Watch movies/series/’tv’ shows.

I could write a list ten times longer–and, increasingly, access to government programs is restricted to online applications and forms.

Denying the poor access to the internet is, in many communities in this country, essentially cutting them off from education, welfare, and participation in the political process.

Please call your elected officials, particularly members of Congress, and tell them why they should ensure that the poorest among us are not deprived of basic necessities, such as access to the internet.

* If you consider a smartphone a luxury, please realize that many people cannot afford both a phone (and monthly service) and a computer/desktop (and monthly broadband/DSL internet access). For many, many poor people, it’s one or the other. Also, people who are teetering on the edge of homelessness (for example, living on a weekly rent room, or motel, or crashing on friends’ and family’s couches due to unemployment) depend entirely on smartphones to access many of the services they need–and which are designed to get them back on their feet.

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