Despite substantial public opposition, Obama-era regulations securing Net Neutrality – a principle that essentially bars Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from playing favorites with different websites — were rolled back by the FCC on June 11, 2018. These changes could pave the way for a new, highly manipulated user experience: movements, media reports, resources, and more that ISPs — or their investors — don’t like, or that don’t make them any money, could end up on the other side of a slow connection. What could this mean for nonprofits — and for the communities they serve?
Katharine Trendacosta, Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Larra Clark, Deputy Director for both the Public Library Association (PLA) and the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Information Technology Policy, join the hosts.
It’s about 40 minutes and they talk about the power of the Internet to bring remote services, such as webinar training, to rural areas and to organize and mobilize for social justice. Noting that 86 percent of Americans support Net Neutrality, they talk a bit about the people who don’t – mostly ISPs, who are concerned that Net Neutrality closes a revenue stream that helps them reinvest in infrastructure.
They also point out that most of the ISP that are at the center of the Net Neutrality debate are big. So big that while the June 11 date may have opened a door – it takes months or years to finalize deals that would take advantage of the repeal. Subsequently it’s hard to track the impact.
There was comparison made between the potential of the repeal and trying to use Facebook as a communication tool. Many nonprofits (and others) use Facebook to promote events, communicate with members/customers and reach new people. There are ways to use it for free and the advertising is pretty cheap. But Facebook changes their algorithms constantly, which means you need to keep up with how they are promoting things constantly to make the most out of the opportunity. The changes can seem capricious and precarious. And the user is sort of stuck with it.
The speakers were anticipating that working in a post-Net Neutrality internet may feel very similar. Will the provider be changing how the manage traffic as Facebook changes their policies? Also noting that like Facebook, the changes will likely occur slowly over time so that by the time you notice them, it may feel too late.