Net Neutrality is a term that you might have heard before but not really understood or cared much about. It’s important to understand the term before we proceed. According to Wikipedia, net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. To simplify this definition, net neutrality means that every website should exist on a level playing field, with no entity able to charge more for bandwidth that certain websites or web traffic use.
Since 2010, the Federal Communications Commission issued the Open Internet Order, which was designed to make it so that broadband service providers couldn’t block certain kinds of Internet traffic. On January 14, 2014 everything changed. The U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the FCC Open Internet Order effectively ending net neutrality as we know it. This opens the door for companies with deep pockets to control the Internet. Internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will be able to block content, reject traffic or apps that compete with their own, and prioritize network traffic on the Internet. Prioritization of web traffic means that they can reserve faster bandwidth speeds for the highest bidders and leave the slow stuff for anyone that can’t pony up the funds.
All the things you know and love about the Internet? You are probably taking them for granted. The Internet was designed as an open channel, allowing ANY website to be on the same ground as any other. That cat blog your aunt loves to read will show up on your computer the same as USA Today or CNN. Independent musicians can reach a global audience the same as Madonna or the Rolling Stones. This level playing field, without net neutrality, becomes an uneven “paying” field, with the highest bidders getting the choice bandwidth.
While you pay your ISP for network access, you also pay content providers like Netflix, Spotify, and others for subscriptions to their content. With additional fees that they’ll have to pay to these ISPs for that faster network traffic, those fees will be passed along to you, driving those subscription prices up.
Own a small business or have a great idea for a website that will change the world? How many times have you seen a video or website that went viral and provided a business or idea with national, or even international, fame? Without net neutrality, those opportunities to flourish will be stifled by the steep expense that could be levied by the ISPs.
So what now? What can we do to remedy this situation? So many of us probably never knew or understood how great our Internet experience is, or now, how much it could change. For starters, go to www.savetheinternet.com and find out more about what happened and what we can do. Sign the petition and read more about what we stand to lose. The Internet is a great big place that has changed the world we live in, and our Internet stands to change in a way that most of us won’t like.