Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The FCC is Coming After YOUR Nonprofit!

I'm not sure how closely any of you have been following the legal battles over "net neutrality" but the FCC has issued new (draft) rules that would effectively kill it (along with the ability of most nonprofits to use the web as an inexpensive communications strategy), all while wrapping itself up in the language of net neutrality.

Net neutrality is the concept that all content traffic on the web should be treated equally, and that ISPs (the companies you purchase your internet access from, like Comcast, Verizon, etc.) can't pick and choose which content you access (as long as it's legal), or send you one website at a quicker download speed than another.

Net neutrality is why your website should load in a browser at the same speed as Facebook (taking into account that large photos or videos take longer than text). Net neutrality is how start-ups compete with the established net giants, like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Amazon. Net neutrality is the even playing field that gives all information and ideas a fair chance at finding an audience.

The new proposed rules from the FCC would allow ISPs to set up "fast lanes" for those content providers who can pay them the extra fees (the established net biggies), and put all other internet traffic into the slow lane, stifling conversation and innovation along with it.

Guess which lane most nonprofits will find themselves in (unless we each find a generous benefactor who will pay off all the ISPs for us)?

Bottom line for nonprofits: If this proposal is accepted, and these rules go into effect, it could be much harder (and much more expensive) for us to communicate with the public about our missions and the good work we do. If our sites load at 1996 speeds, donors, volunteers, and others interested in learning about our missions will not be very motivated to stick with us long enough for our homepage to load.

Here's a great article that explains what's happening, and what the dangers are (click here).

And here's a petition that you may sign onto (click here).

Remember, as nonprofits you have to be careful about endorsing particular candidates and parties, but you are allowed to inform, educate, and take part in public policy debates that effect your mission or your ability to do your work.

(NOTE: The final language of the proposed rules will be released at the FCC meeting on May 15. That will begin the official public comment period before the rules are formally adopted. Public comment will be at least 30 days, likely longer. Petitions and letters now are still helpful and may influence the draft that is coming on May 15.)

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