On December 14th, the five FCC (Federal Communications Commissions) commissioners will gather together and decide whether or not they would like to vote away Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality was introduced in 2015 under president Obama, and it allows equal access to various aspects of the internet. It is the current governing aspect of the internet that allows you to choose the search engine that you use, which online source you get your news from, and even where you stream your online music videos. You don’t have to pay an additional fee each month to your internet provider if you choose Google over Bing or Yahoo or if you choose to look at content on CNN over ABC.
You don’t have to pay more to view websites at tolerable speeds. Right now companies like Comcast or AT&T cannot charge you more to access Facebook at higher speeds, and they can’t force you to use Yahoo just because the company has a contract with them. But this could all change if the FCC commissioners vote away Net Neutrality.
A New York Times article by Cecilia Kang points out that there are people on both sides of the aisle who say that Net Neutrality is bad or good. Some argue that it limits the free market because telecom companies cannot move forward with certain business plans due to the limitations in the Net Neutrality acts. Others argue that net neutrality is the fundamental purpose of the internet: to be able to freely and openly share information with one another.
Major web giants like Netflix have spoken out to say that Net Neutrality protects innovation and creates a level playing field on the internet. In a Politico article by Margaret Harding McGill, she points out that Comcast said it would not block or throttle web-service, but this could be due more to the fact that the Federal Trade Commission would be policing companies that are acting in an anti-competitive manner on the internet.
John Oliver, in his HBO show Last Week Tonight, did a segment on Net Neutrality in June of 2014. What Oliver is saying in his initial video from 3 years ago is still relevant to the debate today. He cited a case in which Comcast, during their negotiation with Netflix, slowed down the internet speeds to access Netflix. If that can happen during contract negotiations, then we know this is also possible if Net Neutrality comes to an end. This topic is so important that John Oliver had to make a second video on the topic in May of this year, again arguing the importance of Net Neutrality and how consumers and corporations, like Netflix, Google, and Amazon, are working together to protect it.
Fortune.com writer Grace Donnelly had an article on “How ending Net Neutrality will Change Your Experience on the Internet,” which stated that the internet could be split up into packages instead of paying a flat monthly fee to access any site you wish. Countries like Portugal and Spain have already experienced the added costs that come with these spilt packages for faster and more efficient service.
Net Neutrality is something that affects all of us, especially considering you are using the internet to read this article. It is important to speak up and take notice of this issue. Net Neutrality must be protected in order to protect everyone’s access to the many different aspects of the internet as we know it.