Net Neutrality: The Key to the Free and Open Internet
Why Net Neutrality rules must be preserved
December 13, 2017
What have you done on the internet today?
Chances are, you’ve done at least a few Google searches, checked your Twitter feed, maybe done some research for a class. Maybe you visited a blog, purchased some clothes, or watched Netflix.
You did all those things, likely, without a second thought. That’s because our ability and freedom to access anything we want on the Internet is taken for granted.
That freedom is under attack.
This Thursday, Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a proposal to lift protections on the free and open internet that we know. That proposal, introduced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, would eliminate rules that require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Cox and CenturyLink to treat all data traveling through their networks, regardless of the website it comes from, equally. This means that ISPs can’t slow down or block certain websites or charge you extra to use Google over Yahoo! search.
This may sound like a jumble of tech jargon and legalese, but few potential policy changes would affect more Americans than the elimination of Net Neutrality. There are a number of reasons why you should care:
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs can inhibit you from visiting certain sites. Since many ISPs hold ownership in entertainment and Internet-based companies, ISPs could speed up access to sites with which they are affiliated, whilst slowing down or even charging extra for a competitor’s site. For example, Verizon Communications, one of the largest ISPs in America, wholly owns Yahoo!, the search engine and email provider. So, Verizon has a strong interest in driving traffic to Yahoo.com and keep traffic off of Google’s site. Without Net Neutrality, nothing stops them from taking steps to slow down or charge extra for users to visit Google.com.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs have enormous influence on which ideas spread and which are squandered. The Internet is a place where opinions, popular and unpopular alike, can be shared with others. It is a platform for everyone to make a case for their ideas. Right now, ISPs are allowed no influence over how ideas spread on the Internet. If that changed, the very integrity of public opinion and what people hold to be true would come under attack. ISPs could censor content that they don’t agree with or hide websites that don’t align with their political agenda.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could bully sites into paying huge premiums to avoid being put in the slow lane of Internet traffic. In a world without Net Neutrality, ISPs get to throttle data transfer speeds for individual websites. Thus, they could demand huge sums of money from big websites to keep their speeds up. This would drive up prices of goods and services from nearly every company that has a website, since they all would have to pay ISPs. These rules would also hinder small businesses and startups that can’t afford to pay such fees.
The face of Net Neutrality repeal is Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC. Pai, who formely worked as legal counsel for Verizon Communications, argues that eliminating Net Neutrality will allow for innovation in Internet service. He believes that by letting the free market take over, the issue will take care of itself.
On many issues, I’d agree with him. The private sector often can solve problems more efficiently or inventively than the government. But the internet is different. It’s more like a utility than just another product or service. In fact, nearly one in three American households only has one ISP to choose from, and two in three have only two choices for internet service. The free market works best in sectors where the capacity for competition exists. When it comes to utilities, government regulation is necessary.
The movement in support of Net Neutrality is growing. Show your support by contacting your congressperson to express your support of Net Neutrality protections.