Jon Stewart - "So, what's the debate? That actually seems quite fair."
John Hodgman - "Yes. Almost TOO fair. It's as though the richer companies get no advantage at all."
The Short of It
- I know, I know
- One more thing to be outraged about?
- Perhaps we should be outraged that we have to BE outraged.
- But before we get too tired here's one more thing
- Net neutrality is the future of the internet and your nonprofit
- And it's still under attack
Your strategic mission won't mean a damn thing if you can't use the internet to get it to your members.
Can't use the internet? Whaaaaa'?
Don't believe me? Listen to the Chairman of the FCC - Julius Genachowski and his recent comments regarding open access and how important it is.
Then - even if you don't read another word of this blog post - sign this petition to the FCC from the Nonprofit Community .
I wanted to get that out of the way.
Now, I've been following net neutrality for a long time. It's not a new issue. Big Telecom has been at it almost since the inception of the internet. Back in 2006 the Daily Show did a classic bit with Jon Hodgman referenced above that is still good for a chuckle albeit a nervous one when contemplating what it really means.
Here is the gist. Right now, internet providers provide access to the internet. That overall access speed has increased with the advent of T1, cable, etc. What Big Telecom has been unable to do so far is control the speed in which all things travel on the internet, they only control how fast you can get to it. So, if you have a slow connection, your internet is slow. But ALL sites you visit are slow. If you have a fast connection, your internet is fast. But ALL sites you visit are fast.
Big Telecom has been challenging this notion of "fairness" for years. Corporate America wants to control not only access speed to the internet, but how fast things can move on the internet. This will give them the ability to control what you can see and hear. Here are two great videos that explain how they plan to do that - What IS Net Neutrality? and Net Neutrality.
Here is why this matters so much.
Nonprofits, particularly those who engage in political activity, stand to lose their ability to use the internet effectively for advocacy. Those who argue corporations won't limit political speech for fear of alienating their customers are cute in their naivete, but wrong. Verizon was caught challenging NARAL back in 2007 from sending text messages to their members regarding women's reproductive health issues and although they reversed themselves, the damage was done. Did anyone hear about the advertising kerfuffle during the SuperBowl recently?
Did anyone see the recent Citizens United vs FEC SCOTUS decision? Uh, where corporations earned the "same rights" as individuals to engage in political speech? To make unlimited expenditures on behalf of candidates and causes? How about the influence they can potentially wield to ensure their messages are moving faster on the internet than ours?
The risks we run at passively accepting the demise of net neutrality are huge. I can't print 10,000 yard signs, but I can get involved online and so can my association's members. But not if we can't get to the sites we need to get to.
Recently, on April 6, 2010, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Comcast and against the Federal Communications Commission. Read about the decision here . The FCC only has a few options to act.
- Do nothing and hope for the best
- Wait for Congress to act (don't hold your breath - they seem to be a little busy right now).
- Attempt to reclassify broadband services so they fall squarely within their regulatory structure.
What can we do? Well, a few things. We need to take action and stay informed. The decisions on regulatory reclassification are coming within weeks. Maybe even before this post gets out there.
1) Send a message to Chairman Julius Genachowski of the FCC - to express your support for Net Neutrality. Affirm your support for his efforts to stop Big Telecom. As recently as May 3, 2010 he was quoted as saying he may be abandoning plans to reclassify broadband. We need to step up the pressure.
2) Visit www.savetheinternet.com and follow their reporting on this issue
3) Visit www.freepress.net and follow them as well
4) Visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Thanks to NTEN for hosting open, no charge conference calls on this issue. You can stream the recent conference call they had here. There are some really smart, really dedicated folks working on this issue. When I hear about activities, I will tweet them so if you don't already follow me on twitter, go ahead and do so at @shellyalcorn. If NTEN has any more calls, I encourage you to dial in and participate.
The FCC is about to rule. The courts are not our friends. Big Telecom isn't either. It will take a concerted effort to protect net neutrality.
Non profits have a lot to lose.
Please. Engage. Now.