Imagine that there are two lanes leading you to a potential donor. Now imagine that the lane that you are in slows and the adjacent lane keeps moving. The adjacent lane is moving more swiftly to your prospect, but it costs more money to merge in. Is your organization in position to change lanes?
The scenario underscores the potential impact of a loss of net neutrality, the principle that prohibits favoritism when it comes to Internet access, could have on nonprofits. President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly taken interest in revisiting current net neutrality regulations.
“Anytime you’re talking about a fast lane and a slow lane, it starts to worry us in the nonprofit sector, a cash-strapped sector,” said Christopher Worman, senior director of alliances and community engagement for TechSoup in San Francisco, Calif. “If you segment the Internet, they wind up in the slow lane, the majority of them.”
The issue is not just one of how long it takes for an organization’s website to load. Nonprofits have been leaders in the social media space, Worman said, an arena that has both been low cost and a means of connecting with the next generation of supporters. Restricted access could create a loss of headway there. There are also questions of freedom of speech and information. The Internet presently is, with limited exception, an open forum of free dialogue. When restrictions come into place, a slippery slope can ensue with a lack of clarity regarding who sets the rules, who appoints those who set the rules and how politics come into play.
TechSoup has on occasion created content around net neutrality and held a webinar on the subject about a year ago with the appreciation that nonprofits it seeks to help can be harmed by a bifurcation of the Internet. The subject hasn’t come up much among the groups TechSoup works with, which makes sense, according to Worman. The average nonprofit is not particularly large or savvy and focuses tend to be on missions as opposed