Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Save the Internet!

The Federal Communications Commission and internet service providers want to repeal the 2015 Net Neutrality rules, allowing ISPs to potentially control or limit your internet access. I, along with many other bloggers, self-published ebook authors, and Netflix (to name a few folks) want to protect the free internet. Join us! Save the open internet!

Read a basic brief on the Net Neutrality debate from Mashable.

My Open Letter to the FCC

To the decision makers at the Federal Communications Commission who want to repeal the 2015 rules of Net Neutrality,

I am a college student set to graduate in less than a year. I'll be entering the field of public relations and wedding planning, but I already have an established presence online. I have a blog that's been running for almost seven years and three self-published books. I wouldn't have any of this—my blog, my books, my college career—without a free internet.

I started and still run my blog on Blogger, which, though owned by Google, has as a blogging service now been overshadowed by Wordpress. I used advice and posts from dozens of small, independent bloggers I found on the internet. When I was ready to publish my first book, I spent hundreds of hours researching the entire process using articles on the internet, and I published it through both the giant Amazon and the independent Smashwords. My junior and senior years of high school, when I wasn't working on my book, I spent researching colleges and college life; that included the big websites like CollegeBoard as well as independent advice from, once again, dozens of blog posts. The school I ended up attending and will graduate from next year is a small private school in northern Indiana, generally unknown in most of the country, though quite prestigious for the circles we run in. I heard of it through family, but I learned about it and decided on it based partly on information from their website. The internet has kept me in school and on track to graduate with distance learning courses over the summer, CLEP test study aids, and research resources.

Net Neutrality, and the rules it represents, made all of that possible. Net Neutrality ensured I was able to access small independent bloggers to research blogging advice, self-publishing information, and college life hacks. It equalized my opportunities as an author on corporate Amazon and independent Smashwords. It made sure my internet service provider brought me information on Ivy League schools, state schools, and my tiny private school at the same speed and quality. It protected the internet speed and quality I need to access different communication methods and video calling sites to maintain long-distance friendships in our modern internet-run world.

I use the internet for everything: not just for fast access to a "telecommunications service," but for personal, work, and school email addresses in Gmail and Outlook; for social and professional networking on Facebook and LinkedIn; to apply for jobs on Indeed and company websites; to video call friends from opposite sides of the country using Google Hangouts, Skype, and Facebook calling; to store photos and documents using cloud storage in OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox; to share my writing on Blogger, Wordpress, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords; to read the news on the websites for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed News, Associated Press, and USA Today; and to relax while streaming movies and television on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime or playing video games I buy and download via the internet from Steam.

The repeal of Net Neutrality would allow internet service providers to use this importance of internet to my life to manipulate my decisions and opportunities as a consumer. The FCC's own report shows that 58% of Americans have access to either zero or one broadband ISP, and 87% have access to just two. No matter where I end up after I graduate, my options will likely be limited; repealing Net Neutrality will only limit them further as ISPs take advantage of the lack of restrictions. An internet where websites "pay to play" and I cannot control my own browsing, writing, reading, streaming, shopping, storage, socializing, or gaming decisions is not a free or fair internet. It is not an American internet.

This is why I, a free American internet user, need the FCC to fulfill its duty and protect me and millions of other writers, readers, college students, and gamers from fraudulent billing, price gouging, and manipulation. I need the internet to keep up with my studies, so it is vital to my education. I need the internet to stay informed on the blogging, writing, public relations, and wedding industries, so it is vital to my career. I need the internet to connect with the friends and family I have scattered across the country, so it is vital to my personal well-being. I need the internet to stay equal and open, and I need the FCC to ensure that happens. If Net Neutrality is repealed, then the FCC is stepping away from its role in protecting consumers like me from manipulation and unfair trade practices, leaving the FTC to clean up the mess later, or worse, leaving consumers to suffer without any aid at all. The FCC has the knowledge, experience, and the right—even more importantly, the responsibility—to stand between consumers and ISP gatekeepers to the internet and ensure everyone is treated fairly and ethically.

Sincerely,
Emily Rachelle Russell
Blogger, Author, College student, Internet user.

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