Now is the time to stand up and defend net neutrality

We don’t usually venture into politics here at Gigaom. We have a staff of very smart writers who aren’t afraid to state their opinions, but we generally don’t ask our readers to rally for a cause. Today, we are making an exception to that rule because of a grave threat to the very foundation of technology-driven innovation.

The founding principle of Gigaom has always been that broadband is a transformative factor that enables innovation and brings about positive change for industries and societies alike. And while we have expanded our focus over the years to cover emerging technologies in fields like mobile, cloud computing, media, data and science, broadband has always been a key enabler of those technologies.

Without the transformative power of broadband, there would be no Amazon(s amzn) Web Services, no Netflix(s nflx), no iOS(s aapl) and no Android(s goog), no Facebook(s fb), no Bitcoin and no Internet of Things. There would be no Teslas(s tsla) as we know them today, Pandora(s p) would stream no music and we wouldn’t be able to share our photos and videos over Instagram and Vine.

But broadband isn’t just about speed. It’s also about providing equal access, about enabling small startups to compete with the big guys and in turn become the next YouTube, Instagram or Twitter(s twtr). It’s about a diversity of voices and opinions that can be found via search engines or social networks. That’s why it is so important to have strong net neutrality protections that prevent access providers, many of which have their own competing business offerings and a monopoly over the eyeballs of end users, from discriminating against network traffic.

It’s all well and good to argue that the FCC would prevent an ISP from blocking the next Google or Amazon, but it’s impossible to tell what business might grow to become the next technology giant in time to protect it. The very act of trying to call on the agency to intervene wastes time that a startup or new service doesn’t have. And such influence from ISPs doesn’t always come from blocking or bad behavior — if given the opportunity to set prices for access to the end user, they can charge rates that will stifle innovation merely by adding friction to the process of reaching you and me in our homes or on our phones.

At Gigaom, we are very concerned about the FCC’s reported proposals to allow ISPs to charge internet companies for so-called fast lanes, because they will inevitably lead to an internet that favors big pockets over small, inventive startups. We appeal to the FCC to enact strong net neutrality regulations that protect equal access and prevent this kind discrimination. To achieve this goal, we encourage the FCC to proactively reclassify broadband under Title II instead of waiting for violations to occur.

We’d also like to ask our community of readers to weigh in on this issue and make their voices heard. You can use the following resources to directly contact the FCC:

For links to an array of options from signing petitions to calling (or writing) your congressman click here.

To raise money to put up a billboard in D.C., click here.

If you want to visit D.C. on Thursday, May 15, here’s information on a planned protest at the FCC.

And finally, to see a vision of what the world would look like without net neutrality, go visit Brad Feld’s slow-loading web site to experience an interpretation of an internet slow lane.