Act now for net neutrality

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Following the major win for net neutrality in 2015, many may have thought it was a moot issue. It isn’t, and we all need to act this week to protect and preserve an open internet.

The new Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, has announced plans to reverse rules that protect free speech on the internet. Ending these rules would allow internet providers — like Comcast or Verizon, which is Pai’s former employer — to control what you see, do and say online.

This isn’t just about the behind-the-scenes technical stuff or how the internet works. It’s about my and your freedom, about making sure already underserved populations, including low-income or rural areas, aren’t left behind.

The FCC is accepting comments on these proposed rollbacks until July 17. The voices of everyday Americans made a big difference in 2015, and they need to be heard once again.

This Wednesday, July 12, has been designated as an Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality. More than 50 major companies (Amazon, Dropbox, Etsy, Consumer Reports, Yelp, etc.) and organizations (ACLU, American Library Association, Center for Democracy and Technology, Creative Commons, World Wide Web Foundation, etc.) have joined forces to promote this day of action and provide tools so that more internet users have an opportunity to speak their mind.

Many of the organizers — full list and sign-up form available at battleforthenet.com/july12 — will display a prominent alert on their home pages to show what the web would look like without net neutrality. This will vary from a “spinning wheel of death,” to what “upgrade offers” may look like, to messages that the site’s been block because the internet provider doesn’t approve. Each of the alert spoofs will offer visitors an opportunity to send a note to the FCC in support of net neutrality.

The site also has a few graphics and videos that individuals can use as part of larger projects, or on social media to raise further awareness.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a huge force in the 2015 victory, has launched a DearFCC.org site. The site allows visitors to create personalized letters of support that are submitted to the FCC.

Many other organizations have also launched awareness campaigns and/or petitions. So long as your voice winds up as part of the FCC’s commenting process, use the one you like. But, please, do use one of them.

Because of net neutrality, the internet has become an open engine for democracy, innovation, education, communication, entertainment and, of course, commerce. Strong rules to protect an open internet must remain in place for these trends to continue.

No matter where you live, the internet should be equal. Service providers should not be able to block content they disagree with, control customers’ information access or create more pay-to-play schemes that will further burden working families. Local retailers deserve a level playing field.

Write your comment to the FCC today, or be part of the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality tomorrow. Just make sure you take time to tell the FCC why an open internet matters to you.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 339-3144, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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