op ed on net neutrality

OpEd: Net Neutrality Should Apply To All
Glenn D. Magpantay, Executive Director, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

When we go online, we deserve an open and free internet. We should be able to go to any website we want and use whatever applications we want. No company on the internet should be powerful enough to interfere with that.

Unfortunately, that vision looks increasingly dim. A few mammoth companies sit atop internet and there’s almost no way for us to avoid them – even if we don’t use their services.

These companies track what we do online, often without our knowledge, and then manipulate what we see and where we go. This is even more concerning for the LGBTQ community where the internet should be a haven, fostering a sense of inclusion, connection to others, and providing access to resources that may not be accessible in person.

Look at the state of today’s internet:

  • Google has 93% of U.S. online searches,
  • More than 90% of young people have a profile on one social media platform, and,
  • Apple and Google together have 99% of the U.S. smartphone software market.

This lack of transparency about how big companies operate online is a growing threat to internet freedom. It calls out for Congress to step in and pass a law that protects internet openness. Specifically, Congress should pass a law confirming that when we’re on the internet, we can go to any legal website we want and use any legal service without any company interfering. In short, the federal law should put down a neutrality marker that says, “No blocking. No censoring. No throttling.”

Most important, there should be a single clear standard for all companies with any access to what we do online – no special exemptions or differing standards.

This would create true net neutrality and only Congress has the power to do this. For nearly 20 years, internet users have had to contend with a constantly shifting state of internet regulations. For example, federal neutrality rules have changed 8 times since 2003.

If rules governing the internet do not apply to all online companies, internet users are not fully protected. This disproportionately impacts LGBTQ individuals as they rely more heavily on the internet than their non-LGBTQ peers. LGBTQ youth specifically are much more likely to find peer support, and access to health and medical information online than non-LGBTQ youth.

Congress alone has the power to address the problems that exist on today’s internet. Speaker Pelosi, who has been such a champion of the LGBT community for so long, surely knows that the current state of affairs is not working.

Congress last updated our communications and internet law in 1996. Bill Clinton was President and Independence Day was the top movie. Internet access typically meant a 28 kb/second connection over a telephone line. Home broadband and wifi were nonexistent.

No more waiting! Congress should pass a law this year confirming net neutrality and a uniform standard for companies operating across the internet.

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The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations.