In 2018, US law-makers moved to end net neutrality, one of the founding pillars of the internet. It may have felt like a distant, complicated or purely technical thing, but in fact it could make the web worse for everyone. But what is net neutrality? Why does it matter? And why should we fight it? Well…
Will: Nice video. I liked the bit when they're all happily gathered. But I don’t really get Net Neutrality...
Kaela: Well, it’s pretty important. The FCC has a plan to give ISPs more control over how things are seen online...
Will: Who talks like this? ISP? FCC? 😴😴😴
Kaela: Sorry, I get carried away. But yeah. ISPs. Internet Service Providers. The company you pay to give you access to the internet. And the FCC is the Federal Communications Commission, which, in this case, decides what rules the ISPs have to play by.
Kaela: What an odd 2002 reference.
Will: I think The Eminem Show is quite underrated. But sorry, what’s changed?
Kaela: Under net neutrality, the idea was that “all data is equal.” So your ISP gives you the same access, at the same speeds, to whatever you want to see online. Whether that’s Netflix, Facebook or some Eminem fan forums...
Will: Low blow. But now?
Kaela: Now, the FCC has decided that your internet provider can slow down or speed up your browser depending on what you’re accessing. Essentially, they can interfere with the way we use the web. Or more likely they can charge us for premium sites we want to use more than others. Like Eminem fan for-
Will: Stop it. This sounds terrible. Why would they do that?
Kaela: They say it’s good for competition and innovation.
30 minutes later…
Kaela: Are you still there?
Will: Sorry I was watching #Beychella
Kaela: Net neutrality.
Will: Oh yeah. I don’t think it’ll affect me really.
Kaela: But that’s the whole thing! How would you feel if in the middle of watching Queen B, your internet slows down and the video keeps buffering?
Will: Why would you even imagine such a thing?
Kaela: Because that’s exactly what might happen. Imagine if Coachella was sponsored by a big tech company, but your ISP had a deal with a rival tech company. They might restrict access to that content.
Will: Even the bit when Destiny’s Child
Kaela: Yes. Even that bit.
Will: But isn’t this really about big companies and their deals with other big companies?
Kaela: On one level, but it will trickle down to all of us. Online calls, online gaming, online Beyoncé-worship…
Will: It feels like this isn’t what the internet is all about.
Kaela: Nope. Tim Berners-Lee
Kaela: Why are you like this? Here’s the key thing Tim says: “I want an internet where content businesses grow according to their quality, not their ability to pay to ride in the fast lane. I want an internet where ideas spread because they’re inspiring, not because they chime with the views of telecom executives. I want an internet where consumers decide what succeeds online, and where ISPs focus on providing the best connectivity.”
Will: So Tim is saying this change kills creativity?
Will: Well this has all really cheered me up. Thanks very much. What can we do?
Kaela: I thought you’d never ask. Option one, leave the internet. Live in the woods, catch your own food, forget we ever had Wikipedia, or YouTube, or cat gifs
Will: No thanks. Next.
Will: How would I even begin to do that?
Kaela: Again, great question. It’s almost like this is planned out rather than an off-the-cuff chat. Here’s a how-to guide to starting your own ISP.
Kaela: Well, it’s more about connecting a community and all chipping in together.
Will: Still. 💸💸💸
Will: Ok this still seems quite a big deal. I’m pretty lazy.
Kaela: How about using a VPN? That means your ISP can’t see which services you're using.
Will: Oh great. Another abbreviation.
Kaela: Let me just Google that for you. Virtual Private Network. I happen to have a handy VPN guide you can check.
You can of course just add your voice to the public debate. Sign the petition. Contact your Congressperson. Sing our Net Neutrality song down the line
Will: Won’t that be maddeningly annoying for them?
Will: Oh! Gotcha. Anywhere else I can find out more.
Will: Well, thanks for this. I feel like we’ve really bonded. Should we swap numbers or something?
Kaela: Nah I’m good.