On September 10, you may have noticed a number of websites displaying page loading icons. Greenpeace USA, the Sierra Club, and sites like Tumblr utilized such icons to protest the potential end to net neutrality, which has, up until now, governed access online. Currently, Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, are not allowed to favor websites when delivering service to customers.
In April, the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled an order from the Federal Communications Commission and determined the FCC didn’t have the authority to require Comcast to treat content equally. The ruling could set a precedent for all ISPs that will affect the way customers are able to view websites. As a result, paid priority could create an Internet fast lane, which would give better service to websites that have the ability to pay for it.
According to an article from Jonathan Spack, Executive Director of Third Sector New England, without net neutrality rules, ISPs can determine what sites their customers will be able to see and how quickly or slowly they will load for any reason, including those related to politics or finances.
How does this affect nonprofits?
ISPs could potentially abuse this new power in ways that will negatively impact nonprofits as well as other websites. Financial incentives could cause ISPs to favor some sites over others. The ability to determine customer service based on personal belief could also be detrimental to certain causes, Spack wrote.
“Freedom of the Internet is absolutely vital to nonprofit organizations, social justice organizations, independent media, small businesses, anybody that wants to communicate a message freely online,” Victoria Kaplan, lead campaign director for MoveOn.org, told The Nonprofit Times.
In addition, as The Nonprofit Times noted, a fast lane will also create a slow lane, which is where organizations will end up that don’t have the resources to pay for speed. As expectations for speed rise, customers may quickly click away from sites that are too slow to load. Naturally, this would leave many nonprofit websites in the dust. However, nonprofits won’t be the only ones affected – small enterprises, start-ups, and artists, many of whom have protested the proposed changes, will be as well.
An infographic at Battle for the Net outlines what actions were taken on September 10, and what you can continue to do to fight for net neutrality. A nonprofit’s website is an increasingly vital part of these organizations’ success. What will happen if nonprofit websites get left in the slow lane?