[23.11.2017 update] The United States Federal Communications Commission has unveiled plans to repeal an order requiring Internet service providers to respect net neutrality. RSF condemns this latest blow to freedom of information online.
“Net neutrality is not an abstract concept for geeks,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology Desk. “It’s what allows us to connect to the Internet and read news and information online. It concerns everyone. It’s a fundamental and essential condition for ensuring that readers have equal access to online content.”
The definitive FCC vote on the proposal to reverse the Obama administration’s work will take place in mid-December. The commission’s decision will have worldwide repercussions, since the Internet giants are based in the US, a country that wields pivotal influence in digital matters.
RSF therefore adds its voice to the many appeals from civil society and well-known figures as HBO talk-show host John Oliver.
Restricted access to certain online content, additional charges to visit certain webpages, censored text and video content, arbitrarily slowed connections to certain platforms... net neutrality is under threat all over the world.
“This founding principle of the Internet is an essential condition for online freedom of information and must be defended,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology Desk.
Although net neutrality has been challenged in recent weeks in the United States, dozens of NGOs, tech companies and websites have organized today’s day for action for net neutrality. Commercial Internet giants such as YouTube, Airbnb and Netflix, and advocacy groups such as Access Now have joined forces in the #BattleForTheNet initiative.
As part of the day of action, the connections to certain participating sites are to be slowed down or blocked in order to simulate the consequences of ending net neutrality. Google and Facebook have issued statements announcing their support, although they have not specified what form their participation would take.
Net neutrality threatened in the US
Ever since Donald Trump’s election, a battle has been underway in the United States between net neutrality’s advocates and an administration that has been fiercely opposed to it.
On May 18, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave net neutrality’s opponents an initial victory when it voted to reconsider the regulations adopted in 2015 that make Internet providers treat all online content, apps and services in the same way.
Net neutrality’s death is not final, but the process of public consultation currently underway could lead to the dismantling of the 2015 rules.
RSF is completely opposed to any backpedalling that would unravel the commitments that the FCC gave under the Obama administration to treat the Internet as public property.
Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF North America, said last month: “The neutrality principle has made the Internet an open, creative and free space, but this is already under threat from the world's authoritarian states, led by China and Iran. It would be disastrous if the United States were to give it up as well.”
Net neutrality is essential in order to guarantee the freedom to inform. We must keep defending it.