You log onto your computer, pull up your web browser, and try to visit Fire Dog Lake. Except that typing in the URL gets you a curt message that this site is not available through your internet service provider unless you pay extra to your ISP.
You try to visit an open-source software site, but your ISP (which is in the for-profit software biz) blocks you from seeing it.
You’re trying to do research on your ISP’s business dealings, but your ISP blocks you from visiting a website that describes them in detail.
Sound far-fetched? Guess what — it’s already happening:
- In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.
- In 2005, Canada’s telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a contentious labor dispute.
- Shaw, a major Canadian cable, internet, and telephone service company, intentionally downgrades the “quality and reliability” of competing Internet-phone services that their customers might choose — driving customers to their own phone services not through better services, but by rigging the marketplace.
- In April, Time Warner’s AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com — an advocacy campaign opposing the company’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.
So how do we stop this? By speaking up and spreading the word.
We speak up to the FCC and let them know we want to preserve and protect Net Neutrality, the guiding principle of the Internet from its very beginnings. [UPDATE: And we make sure Congress knows what we want, too.]
We spread the word by letting family and friends know what’s at stake, and writing letters to the editor and getting on radio and TV call-in shows.
We have five days after today to make our voices heard — five days to preserve our Internet freedoms. You know what to do.