Net Neutrality Next Steps

Ubuntu-Powered Toughbook - Net Neutrality

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Net Neutrality is one of the key issues driving conversation – and activism – in early 2018. (For an overview of the issues involved, check out this recent radio appearance). Thanks to two recent forums on Net Neutrality – one held this past Tuesday at Center on Halsted; the other driving Netsquared Chicago’s February meeting, there are plenty of options and opportunities for Chicago citizens to get motivated, get active, and ensure a free Internet for all. (NOTE – I’m a former Netsquared Chicago organizer, so yes, I have some bias). Net Neutrality is no longer just a business issue but touches on a wide range of issues from free speech to digital excellence, digital access, and social justice.

And this blog has gone on record in stating that digital access and digital excellence are basic human rights.

Because the FCC’s actions have been clearly driven more by ideology than public concern. Amidst questions about the validity about various public comments (various identities were “borrowed”, including Barrack Obama, Patty Duke, and one of my friends), the FCC has repealed the Open Internet Order of 2015 and pushing the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which would effectively perform several tasks, including:

  • Reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from telecommunication services to Information providing services, meaning that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate them;
  • Eliminates the 2015 Open Internet Order and weakens disclosure requirements, and
  • Pre-empts state and local efforts to regulate ISPs and ensure Net Neutrality

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Although there are efforts to stop this through the Congressional Review Act (the same mechanism that Republican leaders used to remove broadband privacy protections), this can’t be accomplished alone. Although states like California, Washington, and Illinois (currently in process) are assembling legislation, there is no easy way to resolve this situation. After all, digital access is as much a part of our business, social, and civic infrastructure as roads, bridges, and several more “visible” signs of progress. In Chicago, there are still many communities where the primary source of online access is the library. (There’s a good reason why the Chicago Public Library’s “Internet to Go” hotspot program is centered on several key neighborhoods). But the work still needs to be done…so what can we do?

I thought you would never ask…

  • Keep monitoring the news and learn what’s happening – Net neutrality is a very complicated issue because of its implications for business, economics, and free speech. Knowing the issues involved and tracking them is the best first step in fighting for net neutrality.
  • No candidate, legislator, or other government officials should proceed unless they are asked about their position on net neutrality– With 2018 midterm elections and an Illinois gubernatorial race on the horizon, this is the most important; it means doing it in public and getting it on the record. And yes, I consider the gubernatorial candidates fair game, although I doubt Governor Bruce Rauner will respond since I’ve reached out to him twice with no response.
  • Thank your state’s attorney general for joining in lawsuits against net neutrality – many states (including Illinois) have joined in filing lawsuits against current policies that remove net neutrality; this is one strategy for ensuring that our digital freedoms are protected, and Attorney Generals serve as the primary consumer protection office; they deserve your support and thanks.
  • Find a Way to Stay Active – whether you get involved in contacting your legislators through Battle for the Internet, volunteer/advocate for a local organization, or join a local protest, get your hands dirty and get in the game, because this isn’t a battle fought from behind a keyboard.

    If you think that net neutrality is an issue that isn’t worth worrying about, let me place it in a context you might understand: Chicago Now has a wide variety of blogs focused on a diverse range of voices in the Chicago area. One of Chicago Now’s strengths is that it gives those voices equal footing and access. Net neutrality would impact your ability to, say, read about being a property owner, or learn about comedy, or even read about the Cubs.

    Net neutrality affects us all. And no, we’re not going to keep quiet about it.

    What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments about net neutrality down below. or join the conversation via our Facebook group. If you wish to contact me privately or arrange a media appearance, please do so either via LinkedIn or my personal contact page.

    And as always, thanks for reading!

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