Opinion

We need Net Neutrality

Chris Lastra

The Internet is the most democratic invention in recent human history. It is an even playing field for all people who want to share their ideas. This, however, could completely change if the principles of Net Neutrality are ignored. The open and free flow of ideas that is presently protected by Net Neutrality will be censored without it.

In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission classified the Internet as a utility. This was a milestone victory for proponents of Net Neutrality, but recent actions taken by the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, have rolled back those protections. After the FCC vote in 2015, the former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, stated that the purpose of the rules was to guarantee “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”

In that quote, the former chairman demonstrated an understanding of the underlying importance of maintaining an open Internet, which is to preserve its autonomous nature. The current chairman, however, does not appear to grasp the necessity of these principles.

Internet service providers argue that services such as Netflix are exhausting their bandwidth and causing issues. These ISPs reason that, if they had the ability to throttle the speeds of certain websites, this would no longer be an issue.

The providers are referring to this potential solution as creating “Internet fast lanes.” In reality websites that could afford to pay certain premiums will not be throttled, while smaller websites that could not afford such costs would experience slower speeds.

In other words, the so called “fast lanes” would be the same speed as we presently experience, while all other “lanes” would be slower.

Exactly how will the abandonment of Net Neutrality affect the end user? There are certainly a few different possibilities, but the most likely scenario would be that ISPs would require premiums from websites in order for their content to be delivered at reasonable speeds.

This scenario might make it appear to be a sort of victimless crime because sites such as YouTube and Facebook would certainly be able to afford to pay a premium: unfortunately, Internet giants would not be the victims of Net Neutrality loss.

Instead, websites owned by small businesses and individuals, such as those who were to run their own shop online or the start-up non-profit organization, would be who would pay the price. 

For the small business owner, who could not afford to pay the premium, online content would be delivered at throttled speeds which would make viewing their website cumbersome and time consuming. Such issues would inevitably drive away the smaller internet consumer’s audience, in favor of websites who had paid the premium to have unthrottled content.

Content creators understand the necessity of Net Neutrality, and they are leading the charge to preserve it. They are calling political leaders and petitioning the FCC to ensure their concerns are heard; unfortunately having a voice in this issue is only part of the problem.

The larger issue is educating the general public about the concerns at hand.  If more people understood the significant role that Net Neutrality plays in an equitable bandwidth for all, they most certainly would not stand for its abolishment. Discussions need to be initiated by those of us who are aware, and we need to target the general population in our conversations regarding the significance of Net Neutrality.