You might think that an agency such as the Federal Communications Commission would exist for no other reason than to protect consumers, but that hasn't proven to be the case at all when it comes to our online rights. You might be tired of hearing about net neutrality - and we couldn't even blame you - but now more than ever, we can't let down our guard.
To reiterate what net neutrality is supposed to do: it's to treat our internet access as a Title II utility, classifying it the same way our phones and power are. That is to say that companies can't charge whatever they want for whatever they want - there are guidelines. And for companies like Verizon and Comcast, they feel that those guidelines are too much.
Simply put, if big companies get their way and net neutrality is abolished, competition isn't going to be enough to keep costs low. It might sound outlandish to believe that you'd ever have to pay extra each month to access a certain part of the web (eg: streaming video, social networks), but it is the reality. Try to imagine that reality... what you see won't look good.
While outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was eager about getting net neutrality laws in place, his successor Ajit Pai wants nothing more than to undo that work. It's no surprise that Pai is a former Verizon executive, and he proved to be an immense roadblock to Wheeler before net neutrality laws finally passed in 2015.
A huge problem that's tied to this fight is the fact that most people still don't understand what net neutrality is, and that assumes that they've ever even heard the term before. For us tech geeks, we might be tired of hearing about it, but many haven't even heard of it in the first place. For that reason, July 12 is going to be a very standout day for the internet.
Through a campaign called Fight for the Future, many websites will be making simple moves to ensure that as many people understand net neutrality, and the risks of it disappearing, as possible. That includes the likes of Amazon, Kickstarter, SoundCloud, GitHub, reddit, Digital Ocean, Imgur, Linode, Mozilla, among many others. Most recently, Google and Facebook have joined the list, and at last check, both companies are kind of a big deal.
On July 12, you may experience a pop-up at select websites that help draw your attention to net neutrality. The goal is to display this message to each user only once, so as to not annoy, although you may still see it once on multiple websites. Even if it is a little annoying, it's all being done to ensure that the future of our web is as it should be: free, and open, without corporations meddling in our affairs or hitting us with nonsensical charges.
It's not clear what Facebook and Google's exact plans are, but it goes without saying that whatever they are, the message should get across, given their extreme reach.