What is net neutrality? As students on a college campus, it is an issue that should be brought to light and made known.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular websites or products.
This means that no matter who you are or what you are creating or advertising on the Internet can be done freely and openly. Even a website that has 20 total visitors since it started has access to the same users as popular websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have.
Also, net neutrality prevents large Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) like AT&T or NetZero from having a say in what you can access online. The providers, under the enforcement of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), must handle all traffic online equally.
The Internet has become such an integrated part of life that it is hard to imagine a world where it is not free and open.
That can be the case in the near future. This is because ISP’s feel that net neutrality cuts back on their potential revenue. To solve their problem, ISP’s want to charge money to websites in order for them to continue to reach their users.
For many, well known, successful websites, this is not a problem. For example, sites like Netflix, Pinterest, and Amazon would gladly pay the price because they have the means to do so. These websites would essentially be placed in a “fast lane” when it came to access time.
That’s all fine, but new start up websites wouldn’t even stand a chance. For example, back when MySpace was the most popular social networking site, Facebook was just an idea. Because of net neutrality, the same people who used MySpace could access Facebook, resulting in a complete social network takeover by Facebook.
Now, say the ISP’s were in charge of the Internet at that time. MySpace, being the huge success that it was, would have been able to pay while Facebook would have been left in the dust.
President Obama addressed the issue by saying that “a free and open Internet was as critical to Americans’ lives as electricity and telephone service and should be regulated like those utilities to protect consumers.”
The problem clearly isn’t with Obama. The problem comes in at the FCC, specifically the chairman, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler was a former lobbyist for the cable industry (i.e. the people trying to get rid of net neutrality). No one is positive about what Wheeler will do, but in Washington D.C. money buys power.
So, why do people need to care about this? Well, eliminating net neutrality would eliminate consumer control of the Internet. If the ISP’s decide that the Internet doesn’t need cat videos, guess what you won’t be seeing?
Also, chances are any small business trying to get their name out will go under very fast because of an inability to pay ISP’s. The Internet will just consist of the companies who could afford to have their content across the web.
This debate is becoming more and more well known. In fact, on Nov. 11, net neutrality advocates protested outside the home of Tom Wheeler. Wheeler said that he agrees with having a free and open Internet, but regulations should be in place.
Later that same day, Obama delivered his remarks on net neutrality. Protesters say they will continue to rally in front of Wheeler’s house until a ruling is made. For right now, it is a waiting game.