Why You Should Care About Internet Neutrality

Sat May 31, 2014 05:26:14AM

A server room, one of thousands across the US, that all together keep the internet going.By: Kim Scarborough
There has been a lot of talk about the FCC destroying net neutrality. How former lobbyists and council of Verizon and Comcast have made their way on to the board of the FCC and how they have started enacting policy to make net neutrality a thing of the past. Sbfriedman wrote a good blog on what is currently going, but the big question is “Why should you care?”

Threatens Competition

Ideally every website and its information is treated equally. Netflix and YouTube are transferred at the same speed whether or not their customers are using Comcast, Verizon, Charter or any other ISP. Under the new regulations, each ISP would be able to dictate what speeds each of those services would get or even block those sites altogether. Verizon would be able to slow down or block the service of Netflix to Verizon customers in an effort to promote Verizon’s own RedBox service while leaving YouTube at standard speeds. Comcast (which owns NBC) could censor ABC, CBS or Fox while promoting MSNBC or AT&T streaming services. People with different ISPs could be accessing completely different versions of the Internet. Imagine if McDonalds could charge a fee for using or even completely shut down the entrance to Chik-Fil-A’s parking lot.

Under capitalism, this problem would be easily solved as people would ditch Verizon and other ISPs who limit their connection by switching to another ISP. Currently, people don’t have that choice. Even in the some of the most densely populated areas, people have no more than 2 or 3 options for internet providers. 40% of people only have ONE ISP option. In my two college town, I only have a choice between Verizon FIOS, and Verizon Broadband. Some areas around here also have Charter as choice but I do not. This is not free market economics. This is monopolistic price gouging and information control.

Crushes Startups

Internet start ups have been thriving for the last 15 years. MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, etc. all started with a couple of people with an idea. They weren’t the products of some corporate think tank. Startups like those are responsible for some of the biggest innovations in coding, social networking, and free speech. With a free, equal internet Joe Shmoe and his personal internet startup website could be crippled by fees just so he can have access to a customer base, or worse, potential customers would be charged to access his site before ever knowing what the site offered. Again, with the fast food metaphor, if McDonalds could charge a toll or even completely shut down the entrance to “Mom & Pop’s Delicious Burgers,” that business would be doomed before they opened the door. Independently owned websites would be incapable of getting exposure if third party ISPs are able charge the businesses or users for access.

Just the speculation of the FCC changing the rules has caused internet small business investments to dry up. Venture capitalist are wary to invest into any startup that requires high-speed broadband to operate. If this was the case 10 years ago YouTube and Netflix would never exist. InstaGram and SnapChat would have never been successful. Innovative ideas will be dead before they get off the ground if neutrality is not preserved.

Destroys What Made the Internet Successful

Most of the internet’s success can be attributed to the free exchange of ideas. It has also provided new avenues for people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make a living or even become insanely wealthy. It sounds cliche, but that’s the American Dream. A free internet provides a podium for the little guy speak from. It allows the discussion of new ideas and through the natural course of that discussion, popular and good ideas will float to the top and the no-so-good ideas will drift off into obscurity. Good business models will succeed while poor ones will fail. The internet entails the very essence of a free, democratic, free-market society that should be protected from people who would crush those values just to make an extra buck and stifle competition.

It boils down to this. If you pay for the internet, you should have the right to view whatever you want. You should also not be required to pay additional fees to access a customer base. You should not have to be worry about paying a toll to get to your email or your social networking sites. Phone and cable companies don’t have a right to pick and chose what you have access to. ISPs don’t own the internet. They are just gatekeepers that allow you access. In other situations where a third-party takes a cut of profits from a business, it’s called racketeering.
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