UPDATE 12/14/2017: Earlier today the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality. Congress still has to vote on the repeal, though, so American writers, keep contacting your Senators and Representatives if you can! Also, I’ve heard that texting “BATTLE” to 384-387 should work as well.
(Sorry in advance if this sounds unpolished. It’s as much of a brain-dump as it is a post.)
So, this post is VERY late. If it were about any other topic I probably wouldn’t post it. But this is not only a time-sensitive issue, but also one that I think all of you need to hear.
Of course, you guys might not know what the details of this net neutrality thing are, so I’ll lay them out briefly.
What Net Neutrality Is
In simplest terms, net neutrality is the idea that large internet service providers, or ISPs, can’t charge consumers different amounts of money for using different parts of the internet. Without net neutrality laws in place, companies like Comcast and Verizon can split websites into different “packages,” much like a cable bill. It might cost $30/month to access social media, another $40/month to access YouTube, and $20/month to access email. Or websites might be required to pay more money in order to be taken out of the so-called “slow lane” and shown to more people.
Currently, net neutrality is protected by law in the United States, but the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is voting to repeal a slew of net neutrality protections on December 14th. As I’m writing this, that’s four days away.
People are doing their best to speak out, but it looks like the repeal is going to happen. In America, the Republican Party controls the government right now, and Republican politicians are pro-big business. They’re pro-ISP.
And pardon my language, but I’m fucking terrified of what might happen next.
Closing the Gates of the Internet
Taking away net neutrality will give rich, established companies total control over what happens online, so any ideas that don’t fit the established order of things may very well be blocked, or made so expensive that they’re impossible for the average person to get to.
So, what does this have to do with writing?
Well, I know that many of you guys on here have self-published your work on the internet, or you plan to self-publish. Let me ask: If you had to pay for Twitter or Facebook access by the hour, or if having an account on this site meant that your parents had to pay an extra $240 every year, or if it suddenly cost money to create your WordPress blog or Amazon account and keep it active, how quickly would you lose the ability to connect with readers and other writers?
And if self-publishing becomes that hard to pull off, then we’re left with the traditional publishing route. It’s not super likely that indie publishers will have the money to promote themselves to a massive audience, so they we can safely count them out.
That leaves us with large publishing houses like HarperCollins and Random House. They aren’t necessarily bad, but large publishers do take away a lot of control we have over our stories, and the stories they publish are usually formulaic. They’re pretty hesitant to publish stories that don’t fit the mold.
The free sharing of ideas is important for pretty much everyone, but it’s especially important for writers. No matter how much money we make from our work (and most writers don’t make a lot), we need to connect with others. We need to be able to talk to readers, agents, other writers. Whether we publish garden-variety novels from a large publisher, or gory science fiction epics on Amazon, we need to promote ourselves, and thanks to the open, free internet, lots of us have been able to do that.
And for those of us in America, that open internet is about to go away.
If I had to pay cable-style monthly fees for my social media accounts, there’s no way I would even be able to pay for Instagram. My mom would probably be even more irritable than she already is if she lost access to Facebook. And I guess I could kiss my chances at setting up a website or blog goodbye.
This might be a worst-case scenario, but it’s still a possibility.
So yeah. I’m scared.
But the vote isn’t the end. There are already organizations planning to challenge the repeal and take it to court as a violation of free speech, and it’ll take a few weeks for Congress to approve the FCC’s vote. Plus, there’s a final mass protest planned for the 12th.
We have a few days left.
We can still do something.
- Sites like battleforthenet.com and savetheinternet.com (this one is international!) have set up petitions and made it easier for anyone to figure out how to contact their Senators and Representatives and make sure they support net neutrality. (I’ve heard that texting “RESIST” to 50409 will work too, but I haven’t checked myself.)
- There’s an online protest being held on Thursday, December 12. I linked the information above, but I’ll do it again here.
- If you live in the US, call your Senators! Battleforthenet.com will also show which Senators and Representatives support net neutrality, which are opposed to it, and which haven’t stated a platform on it.
Words can shape the world. So let’s make sure people can read ours.
~~~ MandyLog in or Register to save this content for later.