On Thursday, December 14th, 2017, commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2, along party lines, to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules that would ensure free and equal internet access for all. Republicans, like Ted Cruz, and large communications companies, such as AT&T, Verizon, & Comcast, have hailed this vote as victory, claiming the outcome will let the massive telecom companies put more money back into broadband infrastructure over time. AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn claims "the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.”, alleging they won’t throttle or block websites. In a questionable move, a couple weeks before the FCC vote, Comcast changed critical language on their Net Neutrality Pledge page, removing their pledge to not prioritize pages or create paid fast lanes.
The consequences of this repeal are vast and have the potential to be dooming. Aside from affecting our day to day life and the way we access things as simple as social media services in effort to stay in touch, more critical problems lie in wait. New York Public Library president Tony Marx and associate director of information policy Greg Cram recently shared just how damaging the repeal of Net Neutrality would be for our communities’ public libraries.
“We live in a world where access to information is essential for opportunity, for learning, for success, for civic life, for checking facts. Anything that reduces that, particularly for people who can’t afford alternatives, is a body blow to the basic democratic principles that the library stands for. Whether people or the library are shoved to the slow lane, and / or forced to pay to be in the fast lane with resources that are already stretched thin, is really sort of shocking. To put it sort of bluntly, the Federal Communications Commission should be defending communications.” Marx said.
“Our users depend on the library, and libraries in general, for things like completing homework assignments, locating e-government resources, e-government services, accessing oral histories and primary source materials,” Cram added. Libraries all over the country are already running on tight budgets, providing internet access would require a much larger budget, which many would be unable to afford at all.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has signed onto the Mayors for Meaningful Net Neutrality Protections letter, along with 67 other mayors, which was sent to the FCC explaining the need for Net Neutrality and their commitment to maintaining it. But we can’t let the fight die there. We need you, Houston, to step up and make your voice heard to the Mayor and City Councilmembers this coming Tuesday, December 19th. Our goal is to make it clear to the City of Houston just how committed Houstonians are to maintaining Net Neutrality and let them know we won’t give up on this most critical of issues.
Currently, while making clear the critical nature of Net Neutrality in our testimony to City Council, we’d also like to urge those who speak to offer a solution of Municipal Internet. Municipal Internet would ensure Net Neutrality on its connection and would provide low-cost or free access to this unthrottled, unprioritized network.Municipal Internet drives a competitive market, increases worker productivity by ensuring constant access to a network, and helps close the digital divide, bringing affordable or free access to underserved and low income communities across the city. Governments also have an advantage when it comes to building such large scale infrastructure, in that they aren’t required to show profitability immediately, while any private company who would install the same service would need immediate profitability or face higher costs. Municipal Internet also provides a positive interest for businesses and private citizens to move to Houston by providing high quality high speed access to internet.
We know speaking to City Council for the first time can be harrowing, but we hope you’ll consider speaking on behalf of Municipal Internet, along with possibly sharing a personal story about how access to a fair, unthrottled, and unprioritized internet has helped you or a loved one succeed. Did you find your last job on the internet? Does your child excel at school thanks to access to research resources found online? Is the internet the only way you’re able to stay in touch with your family? Did you enroll in the ACA thanks to your access? It’s critical to share these personal stories with our city officials, so they can put a face to the cause while helping them understand how this decision affects our community and its citizens.
Remember, you have up to three minutes to address City Council, and March for Science - Houston & Indivisible Houston are happy to help you make the most of those three minutes! Be sure to call before Tuesday morning to get on the schedule. The scheduler is available at 832-393-1100. They will ask for your name, address, topic (not required), and how many minutes you’d like to speak (1-3 mins). We recommend you speak as long as is comfortable for you. If you have requested 3 minutes, then let’s work to make sure we take advantage of your time to bring as much attention to the issue as possible.
Please arrive by 9AM, public comment starts at 9:30AM. Allow extra time for parking if you are driving. City Hall is only a few blocks from the train station as well.. If you take the train, remember to grab your sign for the lunchtime protest event at Senator Ted Cruz’s office, just a few blocks from City Hall.
DATE: April 22, 2017
LOCATION: Start: Sam Houston Park
End: Houston City Hall
Route: Check Event Information Tab
TIME: 11:00 AM
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