2 billion people can’t be wrong: why music needs net neutrality

What if you had to travel to India just to listen to your friend’s band online? This may sound far fetched, but India may soon offer better protections for musicians in the digital age than the United States.

Net Neutrality has been established by law in many countries around the world. The European Union currently enjoys robust regulations for an open internet, and India — the world’s largest democracy — just upstaged the U.S. by recommending best-of-class rules that would enshrine neutrality for its 1.3 billion citizens. Emerging musicians will have a fighting chance there to share their art and reach new audiences online. Americans, meanwhile, stand on the verge of leaving our creative artists out to dry.

On Thursday, December 14, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, plans to gleefully trounce the holiday spirit by gutting net neutrality rules — providing a bountiful gift to large internet providers. Without net neutrality, they’ll be able to act as gatekeepers to the music world. Music and the internet as we know it could change radically.

Net neutrality is a concept that means the companies that form part of our internet infrastructure can’t choose what content goes over those networks. The networks are like electrical wires — anyone can use them to power any electronic device. On the internet, that means that once I log on, I am free to go where I like. I can choose to listen on Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, or my friend’s band on her blog. It would all load at the same speed. With net neutrality, I get to choose what I want to hear.

Without net neutrality rules, my internet service provider could sign a profit-sharing agreement with Apple to make sure that iTunes loads faster than other music services. They could even artificially slow down Spotify to make sure I go back to iTunes. And if my friend’s band can’t pay up, I might not be able to visit her site and listen to her music at all. Without net neutrality, my internet service provider gets to choose what I listen to.

Net neutrality rules are wildly popular. More than 22 million people filed comments in the public docket at the FCC. On Cyber Monday, Sonos joined another 200 business and trade associations in support. Even more recently 150 artists and musicians came out in favor of net neutrality because “[w]ithout net neutrality there will be less awesome art. Period.”

There is still hope. While Chairman Pai is committed to ignoring the will of the people, Members of Congress will have to face those people in the midterms election next year. That’s why net neutrality supporters are asking people to call your members of congress to ask them to stop Chairman Pai before the vote on December 14th.

Nathan White is Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now (accessnow.org)

Deji Bryce Olukotun is the Head of Social Impact at Sonos