The internet you know and love is a vast wild wilderness. Websites about anything and everything are everywhere, and you have easy access to them. You can reliably watch a youtube video one moment, then a video on some random obscure website the next. Net neutrality means you get access to all that content no matter what because all data is treated equally. You pay your internet service provider(ISP) then you have access to the great open internet.
We must first take a step back to understand why this is even at issue. For many, many years our media was curated for us. If we had a favorite television show or program we wanted to watch, we had to know which channel it was on, what time it would be playing and then we had to be there to watch it. With the advent of first DVR’s and then the internet this has changed and the way we consume media has changed. Many people are foregoing cable all together happy to stream their entertainment from Netflix, Amazon, Youtube and any number of places on the web. Add to that people who download media via torrent sites and file lockers and suddenly the cable companies are losing money. Slowly but surely we are seeing ISP’s launch their own streaming services in the hopes of competing.
So what does this have to do with net neutrality. Well with net neutrality we have access to any all data as the same speed. At the same time ISP’s are attempting to implement data caps. Think of it like your cell phone’s data plan. You get so much data a month to use and if you go over that you will be charged extra. ISP’s wish to have home internet work the same way with the same type of caps. The problem is, that it’s an artificial scarcity. Metering water makes sense because it is a finite resource, bandwidth however is not finite. Once they get data caps in place, they can then turn around exempt their own streaming services from those data caps, meaning you won’t go over your data limit if you use their own services. So then you have choice, you can watch media offered by your ISP which doesn’t count against your data cap or you watch media on a completely different website which does count against your data cap. Which would you choose?
A conflict of interest exists when those who provide the water pipes also provide the water. It means that you can’t shop around for cheaper water suppliers because if your pipes suddenly burst, they may not be fixed because the water pipe supplier says “it’s not our responsibility you get water from that other company and they have to fix it. Only they can’t because they don’t have access to the pipes. When we lose net neutrality we’ll no longer be able to freely choose what we consume on the internet, our corporate overlords will decide what we should see and what we shouldn’t. And because in most places you only have one option for high speed internet we won’t be able to shop around for a better deal in the hopes of finding a more neutral internet.
Currently our neutral internet gives us all a voice. Everyone has a chance to post their thoughts, pictures and videos online. Net neutrality protects that right, it gives anyone a voice and allows us a freedom of speech that even our founding fathers would have been astounded by.
If you want to help Protect Net Neutrality you can support groups who are fighting for it.
You can also write to your House Representative and senators as well as contacting the FCC