This week federal courts dealt a serious blow to Net Neutrality. There has barely been news coverage about this, but let me assure you, it is one of the most serious issues of our time. And as a genealogist, you should be incredibly concerned about it. Because, unless something changes, your ability to research is about to be seriously curtailed. Imagine if you had to do your research without Cyndi’s List; Linkpendium; Ancestry.com; Mocavo; MyHeritage; FamilySearch; Find a Grave; NEHGS, NYGB, NGS, or any other genealogical society; or Eastman’s Online Genealogical Newsletter. That is the future we are facing.
So what is this confusing topic of Net Neutrality? One of the basic precepts of the internet has been equal access for all. No matter how large or small your company or your web presence, your ability to reach customers was the same as everyone else. This week federal courts ruled that current FCC rules maintaining Net Neutrality are illegal. What does this mean?
It means that internet service providers (ISPs)can now charge whatever they want for access. They are also free to make deals with individual companies to provide “fast” access to their website, while dropping other websites to such a crawl that one would not be able to properly use them. This will give these large companies the ability to shut out other websites.
This will limit the ability of new organizations to come along and introduce new products. No one would be able to see them. They would not have the opportunity to grow. Cyndi’s List started with a single page of links and now has millions of links to valuable sites around the world. Find a Grave was just a few transcriptions. Who doesn’t go there looking for death information? Even Ancestry.com started as a small website and grew.
And what about genealogical societies? How many of them have local records and resource information available online? They would never be able to pay the extortionate charges that ISPs would charge.
Imagine a world where the internet is run by the cable companies. You can only access websites by paying them a fee. Much like cable fees now, you could have access to certain low-value websites for a small fee, but have to pay much larger fees to access others. And they control what you can, and cannot, see.
All of this is quite preventable. But we need to let people know how much we support Net Neutrality. The FCC can write new rules, classifying ISPs the same way they classify telephone companies, forcing them to provide equal access to all, and limiting what they can charge. Visti FCC.gov and let them know what you think. Contact your representative and senators also and let them know. You can also contact your state representatives and senators to let them know your feelings on this issue, and press them to institute legislation as well. Read more about Net Neutrality on CNN.