In Bid To Save Net Neutrality, Redditors Reveal How Their Lives Will Change Without It

"This isn't a luxury, it's a necessity."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to vote to repeal net neutrality on December 14, and the measure is expected to pass. While the issue may not feel as close to home as tax reformgun control, or health care, existing in a country without net neutrality could have drastic and far-reaching implications for millions of Americans.

Simply put, net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. In other words, net neutrality provides equal and fair access to the Internet and forbids ISPs from intentionally blocking, slowing down or charging money for specific websites and online content. Without it, those regulations (which were put in place by the Obama administration) would go right out the window.

As the Internet continues to grow in popularity and develop into a key resource for the dissemination of information, net neutrality — equal access to said information — is more important than ever. Repealing it, many have argued, will make massive telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. Just take a look, below, at what John Oliver had to say on an episode of Last Week Tonight.


But because it can be difficult to see how living without an abstract concept would impact your life, hundreds of Reddit users have shared humanizing stories about how net neutrality has benefited them, and conversely, how living without it would make their lives immediately and measurably more difficult. The idea behind sharing these stories is that it will push those who have the power to save net neutrality (such as members of Congress) to do so, and invigorate others to get involved in movements such as those found at Battle For The Net.

Scroll down for some compelling personal accounts detailing why net neutrality must be kept in place.

1. A veteran on a fixed income who relies on net neutrality for his only source of entertainment.

Reddit user MadByMoonlight got candid about how his father, who is a USMC Veteran and a double amputee with stage 4 kidney failure and dementia, relies on the Internet (particularly sports sites) as his only form of solace. Since his father is now living on a fixed income, the rising costs associated with repealing net neutrality would be devastating.

"I honestly don't think I would be able to afford [the Internet] if things changed. I use the internet to track his medical information, to research the things his doctors tell me, to shop for most of our needs (grocery and otherwise) and to entertain/educate both of us. We only have 2 providers here, Comcast and AT&T (and probably the mobile ones too), and they're already bad enough as it is."

2. A paramedic who uses net neutrality to save lives.

For Reddit user crumbbelly, repealing net neutrality could have deadly consequences in his professional life. Crumbbelly, who works as a paramedic, said he uses his phone "in remote areas to browse protocol and contact medical control." He also uses it as a resource to check on clinical findings in real time, and talk to other professionals in real time so he can get "invaluable guidance." Without net neutrality, these resources would be impossible (or incredibly difficult) to access in a timely manner.

3. A photographer who relies on net neutrality to get new clients.

Reddit user mistieout identifies herself as a photographer who recently graduated with a degree in photography and is now trying to start her own business. Without net neutrality, mistieout predicts it will be nearly impossible for her to find work.

"I fear that taking away NN would severally limit my ability to reach out to potential new clients," she writes. "Photographers who are trying to establish themselves as a small business owner for family photography rely on word of mouth. Our word of mouth at this time is mainly based in social media. If people are restricted to certain websites or web packages based on competition between the ISPs, there is no way I would be able to reach my potential client base in order to really allow my small business to make any sort of money. They are limiting my small business and my dreams."

4. A low-income high school senior who needs net neutrality to afford college

According to Reddit user Arinuma17, who identifies  as a low-income high school senior living in Minnesota, net neutrality has made it possible to find a college that will give her a full scholarship.

"Without reddit's r/applyingtocollege or YouTube, Collegeconfidential and many more sites, I'd have no idea how to even go about it," Arinuma17 wrote of locating an affordable school. "I'd be unable to find different scholarships, free resources and so much more for students like myself. It's really hard, honestly, and quite often I'm pushed to the edge of giving up. The only reason I have not is because I've met many people online who have mentored me, shared links, supported me, hyped me up and most of all, they're suffering with me."

Arinuma17 even took it one step further and said without net neutrality even applying to college would have been out of the question. "Without net neutrality, how on earth would I have reached this point? My family would have never been able to pay the internet- and the places I got free WiFi from like cafes and the public library? I doubt they'd be able to help," Arinuma17 explained. "In fact, how would I even apply to college if sites like the common app were behind paywalls or terribly slow?"

5. A college student who needs net neutrality to do well in school.

Since the repeal of net neutrality means Internet may be sold in more expensive packages, many college students already on tight budgets are worried about how they will be able to keep  up without it. Just take a look at what Reddit user permaded had to say. 

"I work 2 jobs and go to school, and barely get by these days. I really can't afford 'Internet packages.' This would make life incredibly difficult for me. Being a college student, it should be obvious that I need the Internet for a multitude of tasks. Ask anyone in college and they will tell you how often they are online looking for resources to help with their assignments," permaded wrote. "If my internet connection is throttled or I have to pay for 'packages' it will completely break me. I'm on a very delicate edge right now, I'm barely making it work."

Permaded later added, "I'm working so hard to get to a better spot in life but it's not something that happens overnight, I understand that. I just want the FCC to look at the individual instead of the dollar signs. Adding any more bills to my life is going to hurt so much, but I need the Internet to literally survive and feed myself. This isn't a luxury, it's a necessity."

6. A member of the military who needs net neutrality to keep others safe.

A Reddit user named Mczern said that as a member of the military who works with information services, net neutrality is crucial in keeping other military personnel safe. 

"You would probably be surprised at how often when I'm deployed that I use the internet to help solve rich and complex computing/networking issues. Sometimes there may be an urgent need, like other service members lives are on the line, or there may be times where it's not urgent but still extremely important that I find a solution to the problem," Mczern wrote. "There are tons of examples where I used YouTube or Google or a number of other sites to conduct research or to quickly look something up. Without having free and open access to everything I needed, my job would have been extremely challenging. Without going into too many details, because of where I worked, having those types of resources available to me was a mission essential requirement."

7. A student with Asberger's syndrome who used net neutrality to find a community.

While growing up, Reddit user argella42 recalled having extensive behavioral issues and difficulty in school before eventually being diagnosed with Asperger's. Though a diagnoses like that can be very isolating, thanks to net neutrality argella42 was able to find, and be embraced by a like-minded online community.

"These people who lived miles away and with whom I could only communicate through words on a screen understood me. They showed me TV programs (accessed through online streaming, by the way) that featured positively portrayed autistic main characters. They tolerated me. They might have even loved me," argella42 wrote. "For the first time, I had friends. My grades went back up. I stopped crying in the bathroom. My parents, teachers, and therapists were astounded."

"None of this would have been possible without net neutrality," argella42 added. "[Without net neutrality] It's unlikely that I would have found the forums, which weren't super popular at the time, without being able to comb through pages of blog posts and news articles from various sources tangentially related to autism. Furthermore, I was way too embarrassed about my condition to mention it to my parents (even though they knew about it). If I'd had to go through them, I never would have found the community that showed me how to accept myself and allowed me to become the successful, socially proficient individual I am today."

Within their Reddit posts, many users mentioned contacting members of Congress in effort to at least postpone the December 14 repeal. For information on how you can contact your elected officials and voice concerns about the potential end of net neutrality, click here.


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