Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, and Reddit have joined the Day of Action to save Net Neutrality. Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Patreon, and NextDoor—among many others—have July 12, 2017 highlighted on their (web-based) calendars because there’s a difference between talk and action. There’s a difference between debate and ensuring voices are heard by the necessary people. The Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality might not be the answer to maintaining a free, open, and equal internet space, but it is bringing awareness and engagement on this important issue to a new level.

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What is the Net Neutrality Day of Action?

In 2012 there was the SOPA Blackout. In 2014, there was the Internet Slowdown. These were both efforts to make the public at large aware of how the World Wide Web could be affected by the U.S. government’s regulations and positions on the internet industry.

In response to recent U.S. government legislation, the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality has been created to once again put the less-than-sexy issue of Net Neutrality in the public spotlight.

The effort is not a blackout or slowdown this time; instead it is a direct call-to-action, bringing the issue to the forefront and giving all website viewers an easy pathway for contacting Congress. It might take the form of a pop-up alert on a website, a push notification on a mobile app, avatars on social media, as well as Net Neutrality coverage and explanations blanketing popular aggregate sites and newsfeeds.

Why is Net Neutrality so important?

Net Neutrality at its essence protects free speech and equal access on the internet. As for a matter of its importance, the answers we gave to this question in February 2015 still hold true:

  • Users—not providers—should have control. In a free society, access to information shouldn’t be hindered by big government or big business. Any individual with access to the internet should be able to find what they need online without hindrance, no matter what they seek. He or she shouldn’t, for example, have trouble loading university, non-profit, or government websites, while powerful video streaming sites are seamless.
  • Corporate giants shouldn’t be able to squash competition via internet speed. The free market is hurt by unilateral website slowdowns or blockages. If Comcast, who partially owns Hulu, slows down Netflix, for example, customers will be frustrated and look for alternative streaming options. Cable providers shouldn’t have the control to decide who wins and who loses.
  • Pay-to-play models limit startups. Imagine great minds with a brilliant new internet business coming out of a garage or a Harvard dorm room. If Internet speed is tiered, a startup without a great amount of capital wouldn’t be able to compete on an equal playing field. Why would users wait for something new when what they already know is speedily at their fingertips?

What are tech leaders & influencers saying about Net Neutrality?

  • “The Web took off in all its glory because it was a royalty-free infrastructure . . . When I invented the Web, I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going to end in the U.S.A. If we had a situation in which the U.S. had serious flaws in its Net Neutrality, and Europe did have Net Neutrality, and I were trying to start a company, then I would be very tempted to move.” – Tim Berners-Lee, English engineer and computer scientist, inventor of the World Wide Web
  • The early Internet was so accidental, it also was free and open in this sense. The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away. Please, I beg you, open your senses to the will of the people to keep the Internet as free as possible.” – Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple
  • “If we start stratifying access to connectivity, we disadvantage American entrepreneurs in a global competitive race for the economy of the future… It’s short-term thinking for the nation because we are in a global economy, and it is a mistake to kneecap our entrepreneurs.” – Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot
  • “Net neutrality is the principle that the service providers who control or access, who own the pipes, should not favor some content over another. It’s, you know, an even playing field for stuff on the Internet, and, you know, I think it’s very important to the medium that it have a rough quality among contents. Everyone has their shot.” – Tim Wu, Professor of Law, Columbia University
  • “Net neutrality was essential for our economy; it was essential to preserve freedom and openness, both for economic reasons and free speech reasons, and the government had a role in ensuring that Internet freedom was protected.” – Julius Genachowski, former U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman

Where does legislation stand on Net Neutrality?

In 2015, the FCC ruled for Net Neutrality with the Open Internet Order, which prohibited the use of “slow” or “fast” internet lanes, barring internet companies from allowing some websites a faster speed than others. The Internet Association, a group representing giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, recently shared its thoughts on this order, following a April 2017 meeting with Ajit Pai, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communication Commission.

Among other comments, their document notes, “The [Open Internet] Order is working well and has been upheld by a DC Circuit panel. Further, IA preliminary economic research suggests that the OI Order did not have a negative impact on broadband internet access service (BIAS) investment.”

In late April 2017, however, the FCC voted to start rolling back the limitations set by the Open Internet Order by removing Title II authority from the Telecommunications Act. In other words, all Net Neutrality regulations won in 2015 are now disappearing.

In Conclusion

The Net Neutrality Day of Action in July 2017 is a single day, but the movement behind it has been growing for years. And the Net Neutrality debate is far from over. We live in an era of rapid innovation and unprecedented entrepreneurship. If we want to keep it this way, Net Neutrality needs to be a principle of the people, for the people, by the people. July 12, 2017 is simply one more push in this direction.