I’m sure over the past couple years you’ve heard the term “Net Neutrality” thrown around. In this post I’d like to discuss what it is and why it’s important, and what it’s not.
Many people seem to think that having a free and open internet is a license for cyber anarchy; this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those in favor of Net Neutrality are looking to have a free and open internet where their voices will always be heard and never silenced. I think this is important and one of the reasons the internet is so unique and collaborative.
The majority of concern around Net Neutrality surround the fact that the ISPs that control traffic through the internet are potentially in a position to start pre-approving or making certain sites and internet traffic a priority over others.
As an example, let’s consider something like your water bill. When you turn on your faucet, either in your bathroom, kitchen or tub, you’re not getting different water. You’re getting the same water that can be used for whatever purpose you want. Maybe you’ll use the kitchen water to cook with, while the bathroom faucet will be used for bubble baths. The water authority doesn’t care what you’re using the water for and doesn’t charge you a premium for kitchen water because you’re going to cook with it. Also, it won’t throttle your bath water coming out of the faucet, because you’re using a lot of it to wash with. As long as you’re not doing anything illegal it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing with the water coming into your home.
Now back to the internet, it really shouldn’t matter what website or services you’re using, the ISPs should treat all data the same way. However many of the ISPs currently oppose Net Neutrality because they feel they should be able to allow services based on bandwidth consumption and number of connections. They want to charge companies or individuals that use more of their bandwidth a higher premium so that they can offset costs. A great example of this was the Netflix and Comcast debacle, where Comcast throttled Netflix traffic coming into their network because they said it was too much for them to handle.
A service that is popular shouldn’t be held hostage by ISPs because of their popularity. What if an ISP has a service that they’re trying to promote that another site is doing? Can they block the site? What if there’s a high demand for a particular service, can the ISP jack up their prices? Should they have the certain packages like cable TV: 1. Social Media Package (Facebook, Google, etc ) 2. Sports Package: (MLB.COM, NHL.COM, NFL.COM, NBA.COM) 3. News Package: (CNN, FoxNews) for an additional couple dollars per month? I believe that most would object to these suggestions.
Without ensuring Net Neutrality through legislation ISPs could potentially filter services that either compete with ISPs, go against an ideology, conflict with ISP partners, etc. Ultimately this means that end users end up paying more, companies potentially have to pay a ransom to the ISP, or small sites that can’t afford a premium to the ISP will never get off the ground, because they can’t afford priority traffic over the ISPs networks.
Some believe that enabling ISPs to create tiers on the internet will create a free market in the ISP market and give users the ability to pick and choose what they want. I think this idea is somewhat flawed, because we already have these options now and by having us pay for them would limit how we can use the internet. It doesn’t allow for freedom on the web, it holds it hostage.
On the other hand there are those who think that Net Neutrality means they have the right to show and do whatever they want on the internet. We all have the right to freedom of expression but it needs to be legal. Net Neutrality cannot be a door for criminals to hide behind, and more importantly a free and open internet cannot mean cyber anarchy.
The internet as we know it is viewed as a commodity, not a service, and it should stay that way.
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