If you’re unfamiliar with net neutrality, it’s time to start paying attention. The debate over who should have control of the web has made its way to the floors of legislative bodies around the world, and governments are beginning to act. Net neutrality advocates argue that internet service providers (ISPs) should provide equal, unfettered access to all websites and web-based services, rather than favoring or blocking certain areas of the web based on ownership. Net neutrality opponents, meanwhile, argue that the web isn’t a public place but instead a privately-owned commodity. Therefore, they argue, ISP companies should be free to control the use of their bandwidth as they see fit. On one side stand grassroots organizations, non-profits, and everyday citizens who believe the internet has become the new commons and should remain neutral. On the other side stand the giants of the telecom industry and the lobbyists who push their agendas. Just this week, the debate between the two sides made major headlines as a non-profit organization pushing for net neutrality organizations was sent a cease and desist letter from lawyers representing one of the largest and most hated names in the telecom industry: Comcast.
The news was first broken by Reddit user u/evanFTFF, who posted that his pro-net neutrality organization Fight for the Future (FTFF) had received the cease and desist letter in response to its website Comcastroturf.com. That page was created to highlight what FTFF describes as highly unethical “astroturfing” practices which involve filing false anti-net neutrality FCC petitions under unknowing individuals’ names. Comcast sent the letter not in response to those claims, but merely to try and prevent the site from using its name.
In a surprising and uplifting turn of events, Comcast retracted its threats within 24 hours of first issuing the cease and desist order. While this tiny battle has been won, the war over net neutrality still rages in the halls of congress. Unless organizations like FFTF are able to sway public opinion on what is still a little-understood issue, you might soon be only able to view certain sites and services controlled by your ISP, or at the very least encounter slower speeds when accessing your ISP’s competitors’ content. If you live in an area with limited ISP choices, you could be out of luck when it comes to cable cutting options.
If the future of the web matters to you, visit BattleForTheNet.com to learn more about net neutrality and what you can do to make your voice heard.