We interrupt your regularly scheduled Queer Your Tech With Fun to bring you an un-fun reminder: the Federal Communications Commission has an open comment period where y’all can go weigh in on the future of the open internet. That comment period ends Monday, September 15th. According to The Verge, the response has been record breaking:
If you add up the initial round of comments and ongoing responses, the FCC has now received over 1,477,301 public comments regarding Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal, according to Politico. That’s enough to beat the previous (though very murky) record of 1.4 million; all of those comments were focused on the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show incident involving Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and a nip slip.
Tom Wheeler’s proposal, by the way, says that internet service providers would have the option of selling an internet fast lane to content companies. Once again, the work and opinions generated by corporations with deep pockets would be prioritized over those without. While it may not sound like a big deal at first, think about your behavior when something doesn’t load quick enough. If it’s anything like mine, you click away. You seek the information elsewhere. For better or worse, we’ve all become accustomed to having information at our fingertips seconds after deciding we need it. That is the reality. The 90’s may be back in the fashion world, but do we really want it to back in internet-speeds?
On September 10th, a bunch of websites participated in Internet Slow Down Day. Netflix, Etsy, Reddit, Tumblr and so many more displayed a spinning wheel and a reminder that internet fastlanes mean internet slowlanes. I’m convinced some of the participating sites (like Netflix) would actually be fine in a world where websites have to pay for speed, but the severity with which even the giants are treating this proposal should be telling us exactly how the end of net neutrality would impact smaller sites. Sites that are less mainstream. Sites like ours.
Autostraddle published a post on why net neutrality is a queer issue. Here is a little bit of that:
Let’s imagine a few scenarios here, shall we? These are all out of my own head—they’re not confirmed by any university studies or anything. They’re simply predictions backed up by a few anecdotes and that’s all they are. But they’re certainly not impossible.
Let’s look at Bustle as compared to other websites that traffic in women’s media. Bustle is owned by rich white dude Bryan Goldberg and he poured $6.5 million into its creation. In contrast, Autostraddle is basically funded by creativity, hopes and dreams (and viewers like you). If Verizon wanted to slow down our speeds (and the speeds of sites like Bitch and The Toast and allllll those others that we all love so, so dearly) and put the speed that they’re really capable of behind a wall that only Bustle can afford, they can legally do that. Many of us close websites that don’t load. I always assume it’s over-designed or poorly coded or something, but in the future that might not be the case. The Pavlovian conditioning of users to go for better/faster websites will start to happen, and attention will be steered (even moreso than it already is) to websites backed by large corporations.
It’s also always possible that the people in charge of an ISP just don’t like queers. Ever had a company you work for block a website because of “homosexual content?” I have. Now imagine that the friendly folks over at Verizon or Comcast or AT&T are doing that to you in your house. They can now legally do that also. Imagine that your personal internet gods can block every competitor, every dissenting opinion — not just the stuff that is harmful or illegal, but just the stuff that is harmful for that corporation in some way. There’s going to be an appeal, but my faith that this will just right itself isn’t strong.
Well it’s stronger now, actually. Because massive amounts of people have stepped up to say that this is, in fact, one of the dystopian futures they’re afraid of. According to TechCrunch, less than 1% of comments to the FCC oppose net neutrality (does it correlate with these figures here? Who the hell knows, I’m just spit-balling here). And the FCC will take into consideration these comments while moving forward. Could they ignore them? Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on who you ask—it’s all very nebulous. But I think it’s better to make them, to add to the growing pile of opinions that don’t want a further extension of this “corporations are people” and “money is voice” attitude that’s been going on basically forever (and has arguably gotten worse over the past two decades). So here’s how to voice your opinion to the FCC:
- Head on over to the FCC’s website and read up on the kinds of comments they find most helpful.
- Then head over to the comment section of their website. Click on proceeding # 14-28. It should say “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” next to it. It will probably be toward the top.
- If you’d prefer, you could try this direct link to the comment form for 14-28. I’ve found it to be a bit glitchy, though, so if you get redirected, just follow step two. The proceed to step four.
- If you have a brief message for the FCC, you can go ahead and use the express form that following steps 2 and/or 3 will have provided. However, if you have more to say and brevity is not your strongest suit, you can cast your eye to the left of your screen. In the box at the top left labeled ECFS Main Links you’ll find the option to Submit a Filing. That let’s you send a typed letter as an attachment. If you do this, make sure you include the proceeding # 14-28 on both the form you fill out and on your letter.
Not sure what your opinion should be? Here are a few options according to TechCrunch:
Powerful voices are weighing in as well. Recently, former Speaker of the House and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued that broadband should be reclassified as a utility under Title II Communications Act. The idea is viscerally opposed by ISPs.
Also out recently is a letter signed by 33 tech companies, including Cisco, Nokia, and Broadcom opposing Title II reclassification. There is some space on net neutrality to be in favor of regulation, but opposed to regulation under Title II. For the most part, with some notable exceptions, it seems that there is increasing consensus among net neutrality advocates in favor of use of Title II as the best legal standing for net neutrality.
The Internet Association released new comments to the FCC today, arguing in favor of net neutrality, and partially extolling the potential for the use of Title II, but not precisely endorsing it as the proper approach.
And please do discuss the best approaches for maintaining the open internet in our comments below—just make sure you also leave a comment for the FCC.
This has been the ninety-fifth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Feature image via Shutterstock. Header by Rory Midhani.