AT&T is the top funder of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which contributed $1.25 million to building the republican domination of North Carolina. That led to the infamous anti-LGBT law HB2.
Verizon, one of the United States’ two largest wireless carriers and Internet Service Provider, refused to allow NARAL to utilize its mobile network in the same way countless businesses and political organizations have to send text messages regarding political causes.
If net neutrality is suspended, we can expect the politics of these companies to impact access to online domestic violence, sexual wellbeing and other gender-specific resources. Net neutrality is a feminist issue.
Wondering what net neutrality is? Simply put, net neutrality bars Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against web content and platforms technically and financially on the basis of ownership, ideas or location. Net neutrality is what makes it so that Comcast cannot throttle your connection to Amazon Prime Video because they want you to watch new shows on Comcast. It is what makes it so that Sony cannot pay Verizon more to have its online gaming platform run faster than Xbox Live. And while these are banal examples, net neutrality also protects users from conservative corporations and their owners slowing down or removing access to resources like Planned Parenthood, pro-LGBTQ2S Forums, Domestic Violence support lines and similar services for women and gender minorities that have been under attack by the conservative politicians that telecommunications companies support.
How did we get here? In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission created net neutrality rules to protect end-users’ content from being controlled and affected by ISPs. Verizon sued the FCC, arguing that it did not have the power to enforce such rules. In response, the FCC reclassified telecommunication companies as “common carrier,” meaning that they offer services to the general community under license and authority of a regulatory body. Thus, net neutrality became a part of the oversight and enforcement of the FCC. But that oversight is dependent on the FCC chairman, who can choose their own path towards protecting access to online resources based on their own judgment.
While the previous FCC Chairman was friendly towards net neutrality, the new chairman Ajit Pai—a former Verizon lawyer—stated after his appointment was signed that “we need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation.” And he’s able to do so, because the U.S. House of Representatives never passed the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006—which would have changed net neutrality from a rule to a law, making it illegal for the chairman of the FCC to suspend net neutrality. Not coincidentally, that was not the only accountability measure not to pass congress that year: They also allowed the Death in Custody Reporting Act to expire in 2006, which exacerbated the capacity for racist police violence. The FCC’s suspension of net neutrality could intensify this problem further by blocking or interrupting access to civil rights and liberties resources crucial to feminist, anti-racist and anti-violence activism.
The suspension of net neutrality means that as telecommunications companies seek to curry favor with politicians in order to expand their own profit or circumvent regulations, they would be allowed to slow, redirect or ban access to services that politicians find upsetting or inconvenient to their conservative ideological platform.
As we’ve seen in this current administration, women and people of color are most likely to pay the highest price.