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September 09, 2014

September 10: Slowing Down for Net Neutrality

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It’s estimated that nearly two billion people use the internet each day. In the past two decades alone, it has not only become one our main sources of news, but our social hub, our answer-giver, and our forum to speak up about some of today’s biggest issues.

But what would you do if one day the internet as we know it became impossible to use?

That’s exactly what will happen if big cable companies get their way as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nears the deadline on its net neutrality decision.

But what is net neutrality?

Essentially, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A policy of net neutrality ensures that all governments and internet service providers treat all information on the web equally. So all those cat videos you love to watch in your spare time take the same amount of time to load as, let’s say, your favorite websites and news outlets. The petitions you sign to keep dirty fuels in the ground, support efforts to get kids outdoors, or curb carbon pollution are treated the same as the websites of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world. Basically, you’re able to access all the information you want equally. Sounds pretty common sense, right?

That’s not what big cable providers think. If companies like Comcast succeed in influencing the FCC’s decision, the internet could suddenly be divided into slow and fast loading “lanes.” These big businesses will have the freedom to allow certain websites to load faster than others, encouraging users to only visit certain sites -- sites that internet providers just so happen to make a profit from.

Suddenly, our freedom on the internet is limited at the discretion of big business, which means the throttle on what we search, the sites we visit, and things we post are no longer in our power.

So, why is the Sierra Club getting involved?

For one thing, we’re a grassroots organization of 2.4. million members and supporters that goes toe-to-toe with some of the biggest polluters -- and largest companies -- on the planet on a daily basis. We know how important it is to ensure that the playing fields are level where we stand up for our issues -- whether in the courtroom, the voting booth, or on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The problem with giving just a few corporations control over all of the information online is akin to the problem of just a few super-rich people having control over the issues that are debated in our government. Yet, we’re seeing the latter every day as big polluters spend billions on politics and skew the priorities of Congress toward one that launches attack after attack on our air, our water, and the health of our families. We can’t let the same thing happen to the internet - a venue of unrestrained expression and debate.

When you look at exactly who would be at the throttle of the internet if we lose net neutrality, the need to act is even more dire. Big companies -- like Comcast -- are a part of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - the right-wing “think tank” responsible for writing and pushing legislation all over the country meant to push climate denial, attack safeguards from carbon pollution, and gut clean energy investments. Do you want them with their finger on the button when you are posting a blog about clean energy, sharing an online action about Keystone XL, or emailing your Senator about voting rights?

Net Neutrality keeps the playing field level - and we have to do everything we can to ensure it stays in place. That’s why we’re joining with other organizations like reddit, imgur, Kick Starter, CREDO, Greenpeace, Mozilla, vimeo, and presente.org for an “internet slowdown” to show the FCC and big cable companies that our freedom of speech is not for sale. On September 10, get prepared to see that symbolic “spinning wheel of death” on sites all across the internet. It’s just a preview of what will happen if Net Neutrality hits the dustbin and big cable gets its way -- and our way of saying the internet must remain free and open.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the FCC that you support Net Neutrality!

-- Cindy Carr, Sierra Club Media Team

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