By David Vandygriff
The FCC has unveiled yet another plan to repeal net neutrality, the basic principle that prohibits Internet service providers from slowing down, speeding up or blocking any content.
Its how the Internet has always worked but if it goes away, telecommunications companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast can restrict or slow down your access to any websites for any variety of reasons. For example, your provider could block your access to LGBT news sites like this one because its CEO deems such content offensive. It could also start charging customers extra for access to certain websites or for high-quality streaming services. (Yes, that includes porn).
Telecommunications companies have been working to destroy net neutrality for at least a decade, but activists have managed to stop them so far. This time, thanks in part to Donald Trump, they’re closer than ever to succeeding.
Congress can maintain net neutrality, and is voting on the repeal on December 14. Here are four reasons the LGBT community should be fighting tooth and nail to save net neutrality.
We depend on a free and open Internet to find each other.
For as long as the Internet has existed, queer people have been using it to find each other—for commmunity-building, for fighting for equality, and, yes, for hooking up. (LGBT people use online dating at significantly higher rates than straight folks.)
We also use the internet to find porn. (Okay, so do straight people.) If net neutrality goes away, we can all expect to pay higher fees to access our favorite adult sites. Are you paying attention now?
LGBT youth rely on an unrestricted Internet for survival.
According to GLSEN’s 2013 Out Online survey, two out of three young LGBT people used the web to connect with other queer youth. Three in ten said they were more out online than in real life.
Of those who hadn’t come out publicly, half said the Internet was their lifeline to the LGBT community. If they lose access to a free, anonymous Internet, how can we tell them “It gets better?”
We need unfettered access to critical health information.
Most schools in America don’t provide LGBT-inclusive sex education, and many physicians still lack basic competency when it comes to their queer patients.
As a community, we regularly turn to online resources for information on everything from safe sex practices to gender-affirming procedures, not to mention finding LGBT-friendly physicians. Without guaranteed, unfettered access to these kinds of resources, the health of our community will suffer.
The Internet keeps us visible.
Without the Internet, it’s doubtful we would have made much of the progress we have in the past 20 years. Not just in our ability to reach each other, but in amplifying LGBT narratives in mainstream culture. (Think of what Sense8 and Transparent, both shows from streaming services, have done for trans visibility.)
Earlier this year, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr all faced criticism for censoring LGBT content. In most cases it was inadvertent, but if net neutrality is abolished, censorship and marginalization will be the new normal.