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Net Neutrality and Me; What It means for Nonprofit Marketing

I’ve worked both as a freelance writer and in the nonprofit world.

As a writer I’ve been given an enormous amount of freedom to write what I like to. Other than having some stories die a shelf death or having some stories being edited for brevity I’ve experienced little in the way of anything that can be remotely construed as censorship.

I also have a background in US Constitutional law so I also understand that my freedom of expression is not absolute. For instance I can’t engage in hate speech, I can’t incite violence or encourage people to commit illegal or dangerous acts, I can’t give “material support” to domestic or foreign terrorists, not all of my speech is protected if I’m a public employee, slander, liable or defamation are not protected speech, publishing confidential material, and lastly I cannot make true threats.

If the FCC has its way freedom of speech, particularly for nonprofits may be severely curtailed. This year, FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, wants to repeal net neutrality.

In a 2010 post by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Vincent Stehle  wrote:

“Why should nonprofits care about any of this?

Everyone should be concerned about the free flow of information and expression as the basis of an open society and healthy democracy. But nonprofits in particular have an even higher stake in the open Internet.

First is the obvious need to cultivate an informed electorate amid a crisis in journalism, in which newsrooms are being emptied of investigative reporters and the airwaves are filling up with harsh and partisan opinionators.

But beyond this reality, nonprofits have greatly benefited from the new information ecology, in which every organization is able to publish directly to an infinite audience of prospective supporters and contributors.”

More recently Jason Schneiderman at Nonprofit Quarterly wrote:

“In 2015, the FCC under then-chair Tom Wheeler asserted that broadband high-speed Internet access qualified as a Title II utility under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as essential to modern life as phone service or electricity. That classification prohibits ISPs from engaging in blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization of specific websites, maintaining the state known as “net neutrality.” This ruling withstood a number of legal challenges, and even as the Republicans on the Commission rallied with representatives from Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to undo it, popular support for the measure remained strong, from advocacy groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation and Fight for the Future to Internet giants like Netflix.”

Having unrestricted access to the net means you have the same ability to reach potential donors or volunteers but having to pay more for increased access means your message may not reach your target audience and will further stress cash reserves for smaller nonprofits.

The battel to maintain net neutrality isn't over, not by a long shot so roll up your sleves and get ready, it's going to be a doozy of a fight.

Fight back here.

Contact the FCC directly here.

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