How Net Neutrality Helps Science Communication

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If you have been on the internet in the past few weeks, you probably already know that on December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether or not to end net neutrality, the regulation that forces internet service providers to not discriminate based on what you’re (legally) using your bandwidth for, whether watching shows on Netflix or posting photos on Instagram or watching me complain about bad science on YouTube.

You also may know that the FCC is most likely going to do it, because they’re a bunch of mostly assholes run by Asshole in Chief Ajit Pai, formerly Associate General Counsel for Verizon. Yes, the Verizon that would absolutely love to charge you extra to watch this video.

You should complain to the FCC anyway, because it can’t hurt. Go ahead, send them an email.

But you should also be prepared for that to not work, so you should be aware of the steps that will follow. First and foremost will be someone challenging the ruling in a court of law, and then there will be appeals, and then there may be a Congressional intervention. Over on Reddit, admins have pointed out the need for personal stories that they can take to Capitol Hill and file in court briefs in order to truly convince politicians and judges that net neutrality is an important ideal to uphold.

With that in mind, I wanted to add my own thoughts. Just sharing science and skepticism with you here on YouTube and on Skepchick has always been a battle against discriminatory companies and algorithms. The recent ad-pocalypse on YouTube is just the tip of the iceberg…I’ve been hurt worse before. Sure, most of my videos of late haven’t been friendly to advertisers so I make nothing off of them, but for years now YouTube’s algorithms that suggest videos to you generally have left out channels of my size, and YouTube/Adsense demonetized any video that went viral due to “suspicious clicks.” Over on Skepchick, Adsense demonetizes articles about the science of human sexuality because they consider it basically pornography (even if there are no photos).

That’s why I’m on Patreon — it’s the only reason I continue to make YouTube videos, because people can individually decide to support what I do. The money I make from Patreon also supports Skepchick, since Adsense is no longer enough to cover server costs there.

So I know that without net neutrality, the situation would be thousands of times worse. If people have to pay to access Skepchick or my YouTube videos, and all of that money is going to Comcast and Verizon, where will they find the extra money to pay me for the work I do? Many of them just wouldn’t. Most of my support doesn’t come from wealthy individuals pledging $100 per video — they come from regular folks who have a few dollars to spare each month for a service they appreciate.

Doing away with net neutrality would not just affect me personally because it will be harder to afford to pay to access all the websites that I access on a daily basis, but it will also make it nearly impossible for me to do what I do: communicate science and skepticism to people who are interested in those topics.

And of course then I’d be out of a job, so I’d have to turn to my backup profession: cooking meth. That’s right, FCC, you’ve made another Walter White. I’m the one who knocks now.

Seriously, though, contact the FCC while you can and get ready for this fight to go to the courts and to Congress. December 14 will likely not be the last time we’ll have to defend net neutrality from greedy media companies.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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