Every morning I head over to the r/technology sub-reddit to get a snapshot of what I missed while I slept. This morning however I was met with a notice.
“We’re sorry, Access to /r/technology is not included in your internet service package you must pay your cable company an extra fee to proceed,” the message reads before revealing it’s a joke.
As you can imagine I was a bit taken aback until I realised that today is the Internet-wide day of action to save net neutrality.
Many will wrongly think that this is an American problem but I’d urge you to think again.
At its core net neutrality argues that the internet should remain open, that all traffic through a connection be treated equally, and your ISP can’t charge Facebook for example to get the same throughput a firm such as say Netflix gets.
The Federal Communications Commission in the US is now looking to roll back net neutrality protections instituted when Barrack Obama was at the helm . If you haven’t kept up with that, Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver does a fantastic job of summing up why the internet looks a bit strange today.
So today Fight for the Future, Freepress Action Fund and Demand Progress have rallied the big names on the internet to protest.
The firms include Netflix, Adblock, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox, Imgur, Patreon, and Tunnelbear among many, many others.
At time of writing only the /r/technology sub-reddit contains a notice of protest but it has just ticked over to 1am in New York so we’ll keep an eye out for other notices throughout the day.
So why does this matter to you?
We might not be able to comment on the FCC’s plans here on the southern tip of Africa but if net neutrality dies in the US we could feel the implications here.
For instance, YouTube could be forced to pay ISPs in the US an additional fee should these laws be changed. That fee has to come from somewhere and you can probably guess where it would come from – users.
But paying for services that were once free is the least of our concerns.
Getting rid of net neutrality sets a precedent that other lawmakers will look to and perhaps think is worth implementing in their country. This is tin-foil hat thinking at its finest but the fear of being charged a fee to access certain sites on top of my internet connection fee is down right ridiculous.
And if you think our leaders and ISPs would never do such a thing, last year Telkom group chief executive officer Sipho Maseko told us that he had a problem with net neutrality.
So today, as you scroll through the net and you come across notices that tell you how bad things could be remember that you might be looking at something that we here in Africa might soon be fighting.