It's July 12th! (in Coordinated Universal Stack Exchange Time)
Today we're gonna be showing a banner directing readers to the blog post (and thus, indirectly, this discussion) from every Stack Exchange site.
Special thanks to Jon Chan for whipping up a dismissible banner for this, so we didn't get stuck abusing system messages for it.
BIG thanks to everyone who has participated in this discussion thus far; there's a lot of good information and debate here, I've learned a lot from it and I hope y'all did too.
This discussion started as a way to help me focus my thoughts while I was working with Kaitlin on the blog post to announce this company's support for Fight for the Future's Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.
In particular, I want to get a better feel for why would anyone be against this. To better understand both why folks feel it's important and what gives them pause when asked to support it.
So if you've got something to add, please do write an answer!
A bit of background
Back in 2014, the United States Federal Communication Commission, in response to numerous complaints and concerns, implemented a set of rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from blocking specific content providers or charging them for access to their networks. Essentially, a set of rules that prevent an ISP from double-dipping on service they're already being paid for, or blocking access to specific websites just for the hell of it.
In order to do this, they had to change how ISPs were classified, moving them from a "Title I" classification to "Title II" - more or less the same framework for regulation that's been in place for phone companies for decades, establishing them as a so-called "common carrier" - that is to say, one which may not discriminate between customers. If you already assumed that this is how the Internet worked, you're not alone; however, due to how they were classified previously the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had been unable to enforce rules that would ensure that traffic over the Internet would continue be allowed to work as, well, traffic over the Internet was expected to work.
In 2016, US President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC. Pai is former Associate General Counsel for Verizon and he is leading the Net Neutrality rollback.
If this all sounds really boring and procedural... Well, it is. The bit that's gotten so many people worked up is that there are companies and officials actively fighting against it, including the current chairman of the FCC.
The reason to get interested in this now
I'm gonna save some space here and link to a couple of relevant sites:
- The proposed rule change from the FCC
- A fairly thorough article on Ars Technica covering this proposed change
I strongly encourage reading both of them if you wanna get a better feel for what this is about, but the short version is: fairly soon, the FCC will vote on these proposed changes. So if there's a chance at influencing the outcome of that vote, we gotta speak out now.
So why bring this up for discussion? Because this is something that has the potential to directly affect Stack Overflow, both the company and anyone using the site. Even folks who aren't based in the US have probably benefited from the work of those who are at one point or another; if nothing else, this is where our servers live so any additional headaches when it comes to providing access are gonna be a problem.
More than that though... As many of you have observed at one point or another, y'all are smarter than me. Better informed. So if this is something Stack Overflow is gonna be involved in, it should be your voices that are heard, whether in support of this campaign or especially if you have objections. As I said a few months back, we need more of this sort of discussion here on meta, and this is a prime example of an issue where informed public discussion is critical.
So let's hear it: why should or shouldn't we all head over to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ right now and use the handy form to send a letter to the FCC?
Hat-tip to Alexander O'Mara for digging up two fascinating questions on net neutrality from Network Engineering and Economics:
Hat-tip to BobbyA for sharing this Ars Technica piece on How to write a meaningful FCC comment supporting net neutrality
Special thanks to EBrown for writing a detailed response here, including advice for folks who don't live in the US.
And props to Ben Collins for writing at length about why he believes the government shouldn't be involved in this.
Procedural note: I'm gonna be clearing comments on the question (deleting them) periodically as a practical measure - please leave an answer if you've something useful to add here. Alternately, join me in chat.