Do you think free speech is important? Do you think uniform, guaranteed access to information is important? If so, then net neutrality should be important to you. Net neutrality, put very simply, is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs), governments and anyone else with the capabilities must treat all information and media on the Internet as equal. This doesn’t necessarily sound like that big of a deal, but if net neutrality was no longer valid, then ISPs or the government could hold the key to the biggest and most ubiquitous source of information in the world.
Net neutrality was ruled against in a January court case of Verizon vs. FCC. This means that ISPs can now legally boost content on the Internet, which is the equivalent of slowing down others, and it could be the end of the Internet, as we know it. The effects of this kind of ruling are far reaching and can, potentially, affect several different, major aspects of our world. A senator believes that this is the freedom of speech issue of our time, and I honestly think that he is right. It is equivalent to the government blocking a story from getting into the news because it does not support their ideals.
As a quick example, after this ruling came out, Comcast was accused of purposely slowing down Netflix because it consumed too much bandwidth. Comcast also has its own streaming platform, the X1, so what could stop Comcast from potentially blocking Netflix completely along with Amazon Instant and HuluPlus? This was eventually settled when Netflix paid Comcast to speed up service to its customers, which could be a sign of things to come. This is only exacerbated by the fact that cable companies have regional monopolies, so there is no reason for the companies to respect net neutrality.
Outside of the Internet media and the literal speed of websites, there are implications of this in the Outernet. Imagine a small business that is just starting up, and a very large percentage of small businesses use the Internet as a major venue for advertising and customer growth, if Wal-Mart or Amazon pays an ISP to speed up their website, that just gives the big companies yet another advantage over smaller newcomers. This is being called the “fast lane” of the Internet. Large tech companies have even called this “a grave threat to the Internet”.
With the death of net neutrality could come the death of the way we currently receive information on the web. I say that because the Internet has been a medium where anyone can put anything they want out there and it makes no difference where it came from. But now, new rules could put cable/broadband companies, which have local monopolies, in charge of the master key to largest source of free information the world has ever seen. This means that Comcast, with 21.7 million customers (and could have a lot more soon) and all that bad customer service, would hold the key to information for the highest amount of people in the United States, and that’s not an Internet world I want to live in.