This is a Guest Post from Vincent White, who has been involved with advocacy politics in Wilmington and Delaware. If this goes well, it may be the first of several Guest Posts.
Net Neutrality stops internet providers from dictating the kinds of content you may access online. Instead, Internet providers must treat all traffic sources equally.
In short, Net Neutrality creates an even playing field among content providers, both big and small. And that’s great for consumers because they can access everything they want online for no extra charges. Currently, I choose what I want to see online, not my Internet provider, and that’s in large part to due Net Neutrality.
The agency responsible for enforcement of the Net neutrality regulation is the Federal Communication Commission or FCC.
Imagine Internet providers having tiers of Internet access, with the highest paying customers able to access everything on the web, while the lowest paying customers could only access information the Internet provider chose to promote. The Internet providers might likely charge bloggers, and podcasters to show their content over that of competitors.
The recent court decision mostly shut down Net Neutrality at the expense of all users, especially those in disadvantaged communities, while increasing the gap in the digital divide. The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not, or the difference between those who use digital technologies and those who do not, in plain terms distinguishing between the “haves” from the “have nots.”
If closing the digital gap was not problematic enough now, Net Neutrality has the potential to exacerbate the gap significantly. Within our inner cities and communities of color, this separation is particularly stark. We cannot stifle any opportunities to forgo greater investment in education and job creation which are needed to close the gap.
According to a current Population Survey, African Americans have the lowest percentage of all racial groups for online participation among the adult U.S. populations.
The survey concluded that 78% of African Americans, 81% of Hispanics use the internet, compared with 85% of whites and 97% of English speaking Asian Americans. Adult African Americans online participation did not reach 75% until 2011.
Higher income households, those with annual income of a least $75,000 a year are more likely to have and access the internet. Conversely, household incomes with an annual income of less than $30,000 are less likely to have and use the internet.
African American families lost more than 95% of their household wealth in the recession. African American household wealth declined from $6,000 to $1,700, compared to median white family household wealth that remains near $116,600, according to the 2016 State of Housing in the Black Community report published by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.
Common-sense legislation is needed to permanently enforce net neutrality rules while promoting and protecting free and open internet access. The advocacy for such legislation demands an urgent and passionate voice, not unlike other pressing social and economic issues that already exist in disadvantaged communities.
The internet has become an important and integral part of the daily lives of households across America. It is an economic engine, that has the potential to raise all boats while transforming the lives of its users. An open internet is the best bet to ensure access to information that has the power to change and transform the lives of its users.
Should Internet providers be allowed to charge different tiers for access to the internet, it surely could have the potential to stifle use and cause injury to America’s most at-risk families and communities.
There are those who say the recent court decision will help make it likely that Internet providers would innovate and provide better service — well, I have seen that movie under the title of Telephone Deregulation and I am still waiting to get a dial tone on lower cost, or even better service.