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Protect Your Net: The fight for the information highway

Dev T. Smith

 // Dec 13, 2017

Tomorrow, on December 14, our reality as information-seeking, content-sharing, worldwide conversation-having internet users may very well change for the absolute worst. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its chairman Ajit Pai is expected to repeal net neutrality and the Title II regulations within it.

Title II gives the FCC authority to ensure that companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon can't block or interfere with web traffic. This allows people to share and access information of their own choosing. The FCC is a government agency set in place to regulate interstate communication by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable; and they are quite possibly set to bring on doomsday for the information age.

Net neutrality is a set of principles and rules that say internet service providers must treat all data fairly without blocking certain data. In other words, it's what keeps the internet honest. Without net neutrality, major cable and phone companies will be able to separate the internet into fast and slow lanes by giving certain websites and services priority over others. In other words, the web will be a game of pay-to-play. This is cause for huge concern because with the repealing of net neutrality, the information highway we call the worldwide web will morph into a desolate, uneven playing field.

Imagine a reality where cable and phone companies decide which websites, content, and even applications can succeed. In a very literal sense, these companies will have the power to block information that competes with their offerings. One may ask, why this is such a big deal? This a capitalist society, and companies controlling the exchange of information should have the right to eliminate competition, or operate in the interest for their bottom line. While competition is indeed the foundation of American society, it must not be permitted at the risk of limiting citizens' exposure to all information needed for remaining aware of anything that can have an effect on their daily existence.

An end to net neutrality is an attack on marginalized communities, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and of course, creatives. An open internet is a platform for misrepresented and under-served communities including people of color, women, indigenous/religious minorities, and LGBTQs to access news, as well as economic, educational, and organizational opportunities. In essence, without the open internet, these communities take a direct hit in their fight against systemic oppression and discrimination. In the midst of a crusade for equality in America, no one can win the war without proper intel.

The American dream is one fueled by the opportunity for entrepreneurship. Financial freedom falls short of impossible as long as there's a slight chance to own your assets and your time. For small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startups, an end to net neutrality could kill their ability to create markets, successfully advertise products and services, and engage with current and potential customers worldwide.

Innovation is the brain child of access, and if access is not given to the forward-thinking minds who challenge the status quo, societal advancement will be crippled on so many levels.

Without net neutrality, dorm-room projects like Facebook and Twitter would've been killed by any media giant of the time, with the budget to pay for them to be restricted. Artists like Chance The Rapper would not have seen independent success and altered the business of music without YouTube and streaming services empowering them to reach the masses and develop strong enough fanbases to win without major labels. Somewhere, the next Kendrick Lamar is recording in his closet, and the FCC could prevent us from ever hearing a word he has to say. The Issa Rae's of the world would not have risen to prominence without being able to create and upload original concepts that an audience could prove was worth major backing by the likes of HBO.

In essence, the internet is what enabled creatives to sit at the table with enough leverage to exchange their abilities and audiences for major business resources as partners, instead of employees.

For creatives, killing net neutrality is an absolute worst case scenario. Artists, musicians, writers, photographers, directors, stylists, videographers and more have been able to make a living off of their God-given talents, thanks to the worldwide web. The internet gave birth to the creativepreneur by providing a virtual stage for visionaries to share their work and connect with new customers. It's a phenomenon that literally shifted the concept of the workplace as we know it. Suddenly, individuals could control their work-life balance and not be sentenced to eight-hour days in a cubicle. To date, 53 million Americans are freelancers, which makes up roughly 34-percent of the population, according to Freelance Union. Without an open internet, that's 53 million people and counting who will lose business due to a lack of visibility needed to create new opportunities. The web browser on your screen is your tool for discovery, and the FCC intends to put a stifle on the usefulness of that tool.

Ironically, all you need is the internet to urge congress to stop the FCC's plan to end net neutrality. Head to Battle For the Net and fill out the short form that will make your voice heard by your state representative. If you're feeling even more vocal, they even provide a script for you to call and request the stoppage of net neutrality repeal. Whether it's a fight for equality, small business success, a thriving creative career, or simply the ability to impartially receive information, the need for net neutrality is deeper than the words of Maya Angelou. You're meant to fly, and the FCC is attempting to make you a caged bird. A piece of your freedom is being dangled in front of you, what better reason to REVOLT?

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