Article Mac Clemmens

An update on Net Neutrality

Many of you have asked for our take on the Restoring Internet Freedom notice of proposed rulemaking from the FCC. After reviewing it, we are concerned that the proposed regulation does not sufficiently protect you and your users from internet service providers systematically interfering with internet access, by either blocking or prioritizing certain content or charging for access to particular sites.

Although we are not an advocacy organization, we feel from time to time that there are issues so universally important to the well-being of our customers and local communities that we are compelled to take action. This is one such issue. The threat of having our customers—many of whom are nonprofit organizations, schools, associations and foundations—placed in a “slow lane” not because of the merit of their content but based upon their willingness or ability to pay runs deeply contrary to our mission of empowering communication and connecting communities.

I think of WEAVE, one of our oldest customers and a pillar of our community, and I wonder, “should women seeking help for domestic violence be forced to wait longer for their pages to load, while some commercially-sponsored content takes priority on the network, all in order to provide a new revenue stream to internet service providers?” The answer is a resounding, “No.”

In September, I met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to discuss bridging the digital divide and I affirmed the importance of net neutrality both to organizations like yours and growing businesses like ours. He believes that a light-touch regulatory framework with an assurance of transparency will sufficiently protect net neutrality while also spurring growth and renewed investment in our wireline and wireless infrastructure. Sure, concerns about our infrastructure are valid: America is #15 in the world and dropping when it comes to internet speed, we pay the most of any developed country to connect, and 3/4 of households in the US only have one broadband choice according to the FCC’s own definition of broadband. Yet it is unclear if the new rules will really remedy these market failures. And most importantly, the rules will also strip away nearly all of the strong protections that are currently in place.

In the Fall of 2014, when things weren’t looking so good for net neutrality, we decided to take a stand. We reached out to you to participate in the Internet Slowdown Day. And since then, we have written editorials that appeared in nearly a dozen newspapers locally and across the US, we’ve taken to the airwaves on TV and radio, we’ve traveled to Washington D.C. three times for meetings at the White House, and we’ve met with ten different U.S. senators, representatives, and their staff. In 2014, the outcome was positive, but now the future of net neutrality is at risk.

The FCC will vote on this measure on December 14th and it is likely to pass, yet we will not give up on the issue. As is the case with many public policy debates, I believe that the best outcome is attained through education and respectful civil discourse. To that end, I will be meeting with hundreds of high school students in a live webcast hosted by Nepris next Thursday to answer their questions and concerns in advance of the ruling.

While the fight for the fair treatment of content and internet connectivity is long from over, you can count on us to keep you apprised of any new developments. If you have questions or thoughts about this issue, please feel free to contact me at Empowering communication and connecting communities through your websites is important. We’re inspired by what you do, and appreciate your support.