The web is a free place. At least in its concept. A universe where anyone, anywhere can browse through websites, create free accounts for much of the dominating web platforms and most importantly, create as many .coms as our heart desires. Just like much of the obstacles Trump’s administrations is putting into place in the real world, the virtual world today is under threat of its fundamental freedom. Newly appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, declared a new war on web neutrality rules – such as the prevention of corporations from blocking access to websites, slowing down services for selected websites and introducing browsing fees.
Today, Wednesday 12th July will see US based companies such as Facebook, Google, Netflix, Pornhub and Internet activists broadcast the importance of net-neutrality to their users. While a summon-to-the-mass strategy, otherwise known as the ‘blackout’ successfully slashed Stop Online Piracy Act backed by Hollywood’s tycoons five years ago in 2012; it’s power to divert Trump’s ruthless, seemingly careless administration might be obsolete.
The wind in Washington has since shifted, and public action is both exhausted, and ineffective on the hardened shell of this new administration. The success of ‘blackout’ was during a time when the internet industry had the implicit support of the Obama White House and the element of surprise in mounting a web campaign that Washington had never experienced before. This time, Republicans, who control all branches of government in Washington and are fully behind Pai's net-neutrality plans, won't be as easily moved.
What does it mean to to lose net-neutrality? It means the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) stop treating online data equally. It means certain services can be slowed – if Netflix lobbies with the Republicans it might get faster streaming services than, let’s say, HBO. It means bank transfers are treated differently to personal emails. Considered the Web’s First Amendment, it’s something worth looking out for while scrolling down Facebook’s infinite feed today. If only for the good of your own streaming of The Handmaid’s Tale.