America’s net neutrality ended with the casting vote of Ajit Pai. Trump appointed Pai as the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Pai, a former lobbyist for Verizon, says his decision opens up the competition. That is untrue. It is a victory for Trump, who has made it his purpose to overturn Obama protections. And for Verizon and other internet service providers (ISPs), it puts considerable power in their hands. ISPs could silence the voices of marginalised people. And that would disproportionately affect Black women who lead prominent movements like #BlackLivesMatter. And also Black Women in business. So, the Senate must restore net neutrality or the only people with voices will be rich white men.
Obama introduced rules that prevented ISPs from blocking content or creating slower or faster internet access bundles. Thus, all ISPs treat all data: emails, social platforms and websites, the same. Nor could ISPs favour some platforms above others. So, that gave consumers access to all legal content on an equal basis. Otherwise, it would be like an electricity company charging a higher tariff to use a refrigerator than to use the lights.
But most importantly, it allows content from anybody without the need for approval from the traditional media gatekeepers. So, net neutrality opens up democracy.
So, when Tarana Burke started the hashtag #MeToo, it was able to blossom into a global movement. Millions of women now share their stories of sexual abuse exposing its prevalence. And the impact has been so significant that Time magazine awarded the movement Person of the Year. Similarly, for Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors when they started #BlackLivesMatter. It exposed to the world how American policing discriminates against African-Americans. And it consolidated the modern movement against policing methods. But ISPs now have the power to slow down or block such stories so they may not be allowed to take root.
Net neutrality also adversely affects small business. And one in three women-owned enterprises is Black-owned. Black women tipped as tomorrow’s leaders are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs having grown by 322% in 20 years. So black women in business will be disproportionately hit. Women, like Issa Rae on her third series of Insecure for HBO. But Issa started life with her homemade show Awkward Black Girl on YouTube attracting over 260,000 subscribers. It was possible because consumers had unfettered access to YouTube.
Levelling The Playing Field
The principle of net neutrality allows all citizens a platform and a chance at success. As you read (or listen to) this article, it is readily available because of net neutrality. I can criticise Verizon and they cannot slow, block or divert my content. In Britain, net neutrality is protected by the EU Regulation on Open Internet Access. So, with Brexit we need worry.
Ending net neutrality gives ISPs unbridled censorship and power of what consumers can and cannot see. Verizon in 2012 started blocking people from using tethering apps on their phones that enabled consumers to avoid their $20 tethering charge. And in 2014 Netflix made a pact with Comcast, the ISP provider to ‘improve streaming service for their consumers’.
Black women and communities will be the biggest losers if net neutrality ends. And that comes at the expense of social justice, education and democracy. For ISP’s could block or slow content, and divert potential audiences. That is in addition to extra costs for selling online.
Net Neutrality forces ISPs to distribute content and services fairly and equally. Without it, Black women will be silenced, again.
Editorial Policy: Use quotations from this article subject to a full credit of the source and a direct link to the article on imjussayin.com