Monday, April 28, 2014

Net Neutrality and the Online Writer

The FCC is currently proposing new rules regarding net neutrality. According to the FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, these new rules are designed to keep ‘the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users’ originally imposed by the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The new rules, Wheeler maintains, create a roadmap for enforcing ‘rules of the road’ to protect an open Internet.

Unless you happen to be really savvy about the Internet and how it operates, a lot of the brouhaha that has erupted regarding the new rule proposal will probably be over your head. All the talk about broadband provider changes, commercially unreasonable activity, and preferential agreements between providers and their affiliates, is about as comprehensible to the average Internet user as a scroll written in an unknown language.

Because they will impact information flow and pricing, though, the proposed rules have generated a blizzard of commentary. Predictably, a lot of the opposition to them has come from small companies and startup operations who view them as hamstringing them in their efforts to compete in the content market with large entities with mega-budgets and battalions of lawyers and lobbyists.

In the storm of reaction to the proposal, though, the one segment of the content market that has not been discussed, as far as I can determine, are the content creators. The impact of the proposed rules on small bloggers and content writers like you and me, doesn't seem to have received much notice or consideration.
The FCC commissioners are due to vote on the new rules on May 15, after which they will be open to public comment. You can bet that commercial entities, big and small, will flood the FCC, the White House, Congress, and the Internet with their comments. But, if the new rules go into effect and small content providers find themselves squeezed into the Internet’s slow lanes, those of us who create content, most of which goes to these smaller outfits, could find ourselves edged out of the market – our creations relegated to the parking slots alongside the information super highway.
It behooves us, therefore, to ensure that our voices are heard in the cacophony of argument that is sure to ensue.

The first step is to educate ourselves on the potential impacts of the proposed rules on our business. To look closely at your current content markets and blog readership, and assess as best we can how they will fare under the new regime. If they’re shunted to the leftover slow lanes of the broadband spectrum because of sweetheart deals that the FCC deems are ‘commercially reasonable’ we could find our markets drying up.
Next, make your voice heard. Contact your members of Congress and let them know that true net neutrality is important to you as a writer, a consumer, and a citizen. Contact FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, and politely inform him of the impact the new rules will have on you as a writer. You might also consider contacting the White House and reminding the President of his promise to support net neutrality.

As a final shot across the FCC’s bows, consider sharing this post and related articles on this issue with your contacts, encouraging them to let their voices be heard as well.

For further information on this issue, check the following links. They are not all-inclusive, and certainly not the final word, but they will begin your education process on an issue that could quietly sink your writing boat.