Without Net Neutrality, You Could Be Saying Goodbye to “Master of None”

Buffering. Buffering. Buffering.

We have all had the frustrating experience of loading up Netflix or Hulu and coming face-to-face with the dreaded “Loading…” screen.

It may seem like an unavoidable part of modern life. But it’s not.

In fact, it is something much more troubling – and a warning sign of what life would be like if the federal government does away with vital net neutrality protections.

As my office uncovered in a landmark investigation of major national and regional broadband companies, these service interruptions are not just a quirk of the system. Rather, they often reflect a deliberate choice by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to slow down service in order put pressure on content providers (like Netflix and Hulu) to pay high fees for quicker access to their customers.

Our investigators reviewed years of broadband companies’ internal documents – like executive presentations and internal emails – and we have found that some big broadband companies were putting their own profits ahead of the needs of their customers.

That is outrageous and a complete subversion of the free-speech ideals of the Internet. And it will lead invariably to higher prices for consumers.

When net neutrality advocates say we’re fighting for an “open Internet,” we mean an Internet where ISPs don’t have the power to decide what content we get to see. Net neutrality ensures that the Internet can fulfill its original promise – a level playing field where anyone with a good idea or innovative product can have unfettered, fair access to a broad audience.

In 2015, after years of advocacy from the open Internet community, the federal government laid out clear rules and guidelines that would, in the words of then-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, preserve the Internet’s role as a “core of free expression and democratic principles.”

But, in recent months under new Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC has already begun the process to roll back net neutrality rules. These changes would let ISPs entrench their power online, while trampling on the voices of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and ordinary Americans.

The good news is we have a chance to fight back.

Today, on the Net Neutrality Day of Action, my office is joining hundreds of groups – from great New York businesses like Etsy and Kickstarter to powerful advocacy organizations like Color of Change and the ACLU – to sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality.

We are asking all Americans who care about an open Internet to contact the FCC and Congress to demand they keep net neutrality protections in place.

The Internet is the public square of the 21st Century. Without net neutrality, the voices of the digital haves, who can afford to pay for preferential treatment, will drown out the digital have-nots.

Unless we stop the federal government’s efforts to gut net neutrality, the Internet will cease being a marketplace of ideas and instead become just another place where the rich get richer while the rest of us are stuck staring at the “Loading…” screen.