This is a long post, but an important one. It affects each and every person who reads it because you’re reading it via the Internet (or someone printed it off the Internet).
Net Neutrality—Have you heard of it? Here’s a quick explanation at YouTube.com
(go watch, I’ll still be here when you get back.) Seen the video? Worried? Appalled? Mad? You should be.
Net Neutrality really is quite simple. It’s about putting a middle man between you and your current ISP (internet service provider). The middle man happens to big telecommunication companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. For sake of brevity, which this post is not, I’ll refer to these companies as V-CATT.
Essentially these middle men or V-CATT for short, will decide who gets faster access or simple accessibility based on service contracts they offer ISPs and consumers, which is money in their pocket and less in yours. It’s also about choice. Your choice to use Google verus Yahoo, your choice to visit YouTube or Daily Motion, your choice to visit this blog (the Gabwagon) or J.C. Wilder’s blog (we’re both ranters, but I think she’s more amusing. LOL)
What Does Net Neutrality Protect?
The Internet is a revolution in free speech, grassroots movements, business entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, and so much more. It is the ultimate living document of free speech and opinion. We access the Internet via our current ISP and reach out to someone clear across the globe. People in China and Tibet are able to tell the rest of the world about the oppression they suffer. We see grassroots movements on the Internet in support of issues where the ground swell of support might have died or grown more slowly without the Internet. We see horrifying atrocities in countries with different values and with just a couple of clicks we see stories that show the human spirit at its very best and brightest.
The Internet gives us the right to express ourselves in a forum where anyone, anywhere can come read our opinion to disagree or agree with us. Its public discourse at its best and worst (flame wars will abound with free speech – I don’t have to like them). With net neutrality, there are significant business advantages as well. Since I’m a writer, I’m going to focus on that business in the post, but there are thousands of all kinds of small businesses this issue will affect in a really harmful way if V-CATT gets its way.
How V-CATT Can Harm Us
New authors need the Internet these days in a bad way. We need it to market and reach out to readers. We put up free reads on their websites (Dangerous Epilogue), we create book trailers to post on YouTube (Linked to Dangerous trailer *grin*), We connect with readers on websites like DearAuthor, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Romantic Times, Romance Writers of America. We utilize blogs such as this one as a marketing tool to attract readers, and we connect with new readers via MySpace, Facebook, other social network sites and dozens of other forums.
But guess what…if net neutrality goes away, everything I’ve listed above could easily cease to exist, or at the very least, reader access (YOUR access) to that information will be seriously jeopardized whether on their end or yours. For a new author that is the death knell of their ability to market themselves and reach readers in an attempt to build their name. It could easily crush the sharing of information about the romance industry or anything else for that matter. God knows what kind of impact it will have on ePublishing in terms of overhead.
Commerce and Consumers
I’m both a consumer and a businesswoman. On several occasions, I’ve been able to eliminate the middle man in my purchases on the Internet. I buy marketing materials in bulk so it’s cheaper for me to go directly to a wholesale source than head to Staples or Office Max. Discount Shopping Bags.com is one example of my finding a product for a cheaper price than I would have paid at a local store through special order. This type of purchase wouldn’t have been possible without the Internet.
A similar thing happened with a great store in Chicago (God I LOVE the Windy City). Merz Apothecary (history) is a wonderful shop founded in 1875 in a North Chicago suburb. I visited the bricks and mortar store several years ago and found some soap for my husband to use because it makes him smell REALLY good. When the DH had used all the soap I made in my original purchase, I couldn’t find it locally and Chicago is about 1000 miles from Richmond, VA, so I went online, did a search and there they were doing business under SmallFlower.com. That was five years ago and I’m still ordering soap from them.
But what if net neutrality didn’t exist. I might never have been able to access and purchase items from these two vendors. Why? Because V-CATT would be making the vendors and me pay more money to connect with each other. Monies that some vendors would not be able to afford. Money I might not be able to afford. That’s restricting consumer choice and free enterprise. In a word, it’s bad. Bad for the economy.
As a business person, I currently pay $38 every month for my Internet connection through Comcast (the DH got that price for 12 months when he threatened to go with competitor V). I pay $55 a year for my website to be hosted on my ISP’s servers. I also pay $10 for two domain names (I have my pen name and my real name reserved). I also pay $10 for privacy on each domain name. So the annual total to have Internet access to have a website and go anywhere I want in pretty much a blink of an eye is $551 a year or about $46 a month.
As a small business woman, I think those are reasonable fees when I average it out. However, based on past experience with cable services, I fully expect my costs for the Internet to go up significantly if net neutrality goes away. I get a lot of bang for my buck since I do all my own web programming, but that will change if V-CATT has its way. God help the author who doesn’t know how to program their own site. They’re going to have to find a designer who either has the same ISP or an ISP with a service contract that allows the designer to access the author’s website for design purposes.
Bad News for Authors
For authors, here’s the worst news of all. Some of my readers still might not be able to reach me because they can’t afford too. Or the connection between them and me will be so slow (dialup anyone?) they’ll be less inclined to visit my website. My website, Cathy’s website, Mac’s website, Natalie’s website, and other small businesses will have to pay more money to make our sites readily accessible to readers and readers are going to have to pay more to get to us quickly and easily. Thus our bottom line is cut into once again by a big corporation. What does that tell you about the entrepreneurial spirit being crushed?
I won’t lie to you; there is one enticing argument V-CATT is going to throw out at everyone. They’re going to say, oh but wait, we’re just trying to cut down on piracy by restricting what goes through the Internet pipes. By restricting certain peer-to-peer packets (the data you send out and someone receives) these companies can cut down on piracy. Notice I say cut down on, they cannot eliminate it (crime will always be with us).
However, as much as I despise piracy, I’m not willing to restrict the Internet in a way that stifles free commerce and trade, restricts freedom of speech, crushes the innovative spirit of developers, artists, entrepreneurs or the ordinary Jane or Joe who wants to spout off about issues near and dear to their heart. I don’t want the roads that benefit me as a consumer or as a business woman closed off. Oh, and clearly Comcast does not want us speaking out. Here’s what they did to prevent ordinary citizens from telling the FCC that net neutrality needs to be protected (they suppressed free speech). Oh, and the idiots (Comcast) even admitted to it that they’d obstructed citizens right to speak out about net neutrality.
This is about choice. The right to make a choice in where I go and what I access without restrictions. If you’re interested in finding out how you can help, visit SaveTheInternet.com where you can send either a standard protest notice to your legislators or you can reword it to put your own words in the letter. Sign up for their news alerts.
This affects each and every one of us. If we do nothing, we have no one to blame but ourselves in the end. And just one final point, this entire post was researched by accessing websites that were made possible by the openness of the Internet. Clearly without open access this article would have been less lengthy, less clear, less accurate, and less visible and probably read by a limited few (although I’m betting it won’t be that high number even WITH open access! LOL)
Bonne chance mes amis
Vie La Liberté — Vie Le Internet — Vie La Revolution