(WOMENSENEWS)– The Federal Communication Commission’s current attempt to eviscerate net neutrality is a direct threat to our work and could have disastrous consequences for women and girls. With the public comment deadline looming, and a final decision from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the commission coming soon after that, it’s time to take action — urgently.
Not sure what net neutrality is all about? The situation is this: earlier this year, the FCC proposed new rules that would allow Internet service providers (“ISPs,” like Verizon and Comcast) to charge content providers (basically, anyone who owns a website of any kind) for priority access, essentially creating two tiers of service; a “fast lane” for those that can afford it and a “slow lane” for the rest of us.
The access threats go beyond content providers. These proposed rules also allow ISPs to charge Internet users like you and me more money to access more of the Internet.
That means you could be forced to add a “feminist websites” package to your Time Warner bill along with your NFL Sunday Ticket. While “Orange is the New Black” will load faster than ever (because Netflix can afford the fast lane), it could take an entire episode to load an article about Laverne Cox — assuming you can even access the article in the first place. Yes, it gets worse: ISPs can even go as far as blocking entire websites.
Without net neutrality, the online voices of women and girls will be threatened. Already, major media’s structural inequality continually leaves out women and girls.
The Women’s Media Center’s repeatedly dismal findings affirms this. Especially affected by these structural inequalities are women and girls of color, trans women, queer women and indigenous women.
These groups are regularly attacked and objectified by major media while simultaneously being erased from our screens and speakers. Having rich white men in charge of media and media policy has only made major media richer, whiter and fuller of men — shocker. Now they want to add the Internet to their domain.
The Internet is one of the few places where independent media can thrive, providing a place for all women and girls to tell our stories in our words on our own terms, uncensored and controlled by no one. The proposed FCC rules would not only threaten Internet users’ free and easy access to these media and the crucial voices they preserve and amplify, by extension it would also give ISPs power to control and censor women’s and girls’ speech online.
And the threat is twofold: we use the web to organize and fight for change outside of it. The Internet allows us to spread messages further than our feet could take us, make ideas louder than our voices can shout and stand together while we are miles apart. But our access to the Internet and the tools it offers is provided by big cable companies. In the fight for media justice, we are at risk of the very people we fight against having authority over the tools we use to fight them. Silencing dissenting voices will be easier than ever — and legal — under these proposed rules.
This moment, right now, is crucial. Justice for women and girls in its many forms is dependent on the ability to share information, ideas and experiences freely. That is why WAM! is committed to leading over a dozen organizations fighting for women and girls across the country for one last push against the FCC’s proposed rules.
We need every single person reading this to submit an official public comment to the FCC before the Sept. 15 deadline.
WAM! has provided a simple way to submit comments at http://bit.ly/WAMnetneutrality. Submit your comment right now and ask everyone you know to do it, too.
We won’t be silenced. We won’t be unseen. Let’s do this.
Mina Farzad is community manager at Women, Action and the Media. A version of this letter originally appeared on the WAM! website.
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