Net Neutrality: What Women Really Want
October 30, 2009Guest post by Mary Alice Crim, originally posted on Save the Internet Net Neutrality is a women’s issue – and some of the country’s leading feminist groups are speaking out. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority Foundation have both sent letters applauding the FCC for launching its Net Neutrality rulemaking proceeding. One women’s group, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), is urging the FCC to drop its Net Neutrality rule making proceeding, arguing that a neutral Net could hurt female-owned small businesses. We’re glad that the WIPP wants to look out for women, but we want to reiterate that Net Neutrality is on our side. Net Neutrality is what allows us to use the Internet as a tool for creating social change and working on various issues that impact women such as heath care, economic development, education and reproductive rights. In their letter to the FCC, NOW writes:
The Internet has allowed NOW to connect like never before with members and allies, potential supporters, students and educators, government leaders and countless others who can help advance equality for all. The Internet offers a platform for dialogue amongst feminists who might not otherwise have a chance to strategize together. It empowers women by providing them with information about their status, threats to their rights and opportunities for advancement. It presents a tool for democratic participation by allowing women's rights advocates to easily petition their elected officials and keep tabs on their records. Without a doubt, the women's rights movement benefits immensely from the unprecedented power of an open and accessible Internet.In contrast to mainstream media, where so many voices and perspectives are excluded, the Internet serves as a portal to content that is relevant to women. It’s also the only open platform where women can express their own views and post their own material without gatekeepers. This ability to self-publish turns the mainstream media model, with its scarcity of women media owners and women’s viewpoints, on its head. As the Feminist Majority Foundation wrote to the FCC:
It’s a mistake to assume that the Internet is already a space where free speech is protected and ensured. Under current law, or the lack thereof, Internet service providers can block Web sites, content, services or applications they don’t like. And they have, most notably when Comcast secretly interfered with users' ability to access popular video, photo and music-sharing applications; when AT&T censored a political speech by the band Pearl Jam’s lead singer; and when Verizon blocked text messages between a pro-choice organization and its members.Anti-Net Neutrality arguments have been made by groups like WIPP that falsely claim Net Neutrality rules will reduce investment in broadband networks and slow broadband deployment. But the evidence suggest otherwise. A recent report by Free Press clearly shows that Net Neutrality will not harm network investment. The report uses actual investment data and shows that open Internet rules will likely have a positive impact on investment in both the network and applications market. NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation are right -- access to a high-speed Internet connection and Net Neutrality empower women. Female business owners in particular are helped by an open Internet, where they have an equal platform to compete against more established businesses, create their own start-up companies, and implement new ideas. Everyday, more and more women are taking a stand in support of an open, neutral Internet. Women’s voices are needed in this crucial debate to preserve Net Neutrality – add yours today.