Joining activists across the nation in collective support of net neutrality, at least one organization is planning to rally outside of a Verizon Wireless store in Eau Claire today to add its voices to the mix.
Backed by the Wisconsin chapter of the national Women’s March group, Memorial High School seniors Violet Kilmurray and Zaria Whitacre are leading a protest today against tossing out rules protecting an open internet.
Advocates have become increasingly protective of net neutrality lately because of a possible vote to come before the Federal Communications Commission next week that would do away with rules that give equal play to all data.
The alternative to net neutrality gives those who manage the network more say.
“Net neutrality is the notion that someone other than the sender of information and the receiver of information controls the channel through which the information moves in some manner,” explained Byron Anderson, UW-Stout chairman of the communication technologies department.
Kilmurray and Whitacre, both 17, said so far about 30 people on Facebook have expressed interest in attending the Net Neutrality Rollback Action and Protest in Eau Claire as part of the women-led organization for social change.
“The internet is how a lot of people get information and share their voices,” Whitacre said. “If we don’t have net neutrality, that can hinder other people from being able to express themselves, and it eliminates people from the conversation.”
Anderson isn’t sure he agrees.
“What is going to happen is something significantly unknown, whichever legislation occurs,” he said.
One of the arguments against tossing out net neutrality is that companies that can afford to buy more bandwidth can choke out people in the so-called slow lane.
But Anderson said that if larger firms, such as streaming video services Amazon and Netflix, buy faster lane permissions, they’re moving some of their funds to internet service providers who build the pipes along which data is transmitted.
Those providers could in turn build bigger networks, thus increasing transmissioncapacity and benefiting consumers.
Alternatively, such firms as Netflix or Amazon might come back to consumers in five years with more charges to recoup the money that was spent on fast-lane trafficking.
“I don’t think it’s as clean and neat as one side is pro-consumer and the other side is anti-consumer,” Anderson said.
Net neutrality is a ballooning concern since President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the FCC, Ajit Pai, announced plans to turn back President Barack Obama’s order that data transmissions be treated equally.
But Anderson said applying telephone-era rules to the internet era doesn’t play well.
During the telephone era, callers took up the same amount of bandwidth whether either caller was speaking or sitting in silence.
In data transmissions, new data require more bandwidth.
For example, while streaming a basketball game, pixels are constantly changing because of the players moving on the screen. That requires more data being sent and more bandwidth than a television show where the colors and hues aren’t changing.
In the latter case, data for the same colors and hues won’t be resent. Instead, that bandwidth will be spent on other data for something else.
“The technological shift that has occurred to how you can maximize bandwidth has been a changing variable that in some ways doesn’t translate well from days of twisted wire phone to fully digital, optical transmission systems,” Anderson said.
Another argument for net neutrality is that newcomers to the digital market will otherwise be squeezed out by larger firms already soaking up a majority of the bandwidth.
But Anderson said he sees other barriers that play a greater role than the protection offered by net neutrality.
“I don’t know to what extent the removal of net neutrality raises the already high bar of any companies that are trying to enter the digital marketplace,” he said.
Protesters believe net neutrality is one form of protection of free speech.
“Without it, the internet could become privatized and heavily controlled,” Kilmurray stated in a news release.
The protest will run from 4 to 6 p.m. today, starting with a march on Oakwood Mall Drive from Monk’s Bar and Grill to the Verizon Wireless store.
Protesters to the change were invited to an event Wednesday at ECDC (Eau Claire Downtown Coffee), 205 S. Barstow St., to make signs for the rally, write letters to legislators and call representatives to show support for net neutrality.
“It’s important that we uphold the right to speech and information; that’s why we’re doing this,” Kilmurray said.
Whitacre added: “We’re all showing solidarity for the same topic. It’s not just a political problem, but a citizen problem.”
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