Foreword: the paragraphs to follow are barely scratching the surface on this topic. This issue is relevant not only to the quality of our online experience but also to the concept of free speech in our nation and the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To learn more about what’s currently happening with net neutrality, please visit the resources included at the bottom of the post.
The internet is a big part of my life. Checking my email and browsing Reddit in the morning come second only to brewing my coffee. The internet serves more purposes for me than any other medium of communication; it assists in research, it entertains, and it provides a forum for communication about an infinite number of topics.
Something called network neutrality, or net neutrality for short, is what makes all of this possible. It has been the defining force behind the revolutionary power of the internet. Surprisingly, it’s not something you hear much about in the daily news cycle.
This is kind of a complicated issue, but once you get it, you’re going to see it’s significance. Let’s look at what net neutrality actually is.
Imagine the internet as being a network of roads and highways. Right now, everybody has the same access to the network. Plus, you and everybody else driving on the network follow the same set of rules, and everyone is free to take the fastest route to their final destination. Everyone gets equal treatment.
But businesses are using the network too, sending products back and forth, communicating with customers, and carrying out other business related functions – functions that result in profits.
Well the network owners (ISPs), people like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, see a problem with this picture: businesses with big money are using their network at the same cost as base level consumers like you and me. To take advantage of this situation, they would like to split up the internet into what can only be described as a fast lane and a slow lane.
By doing that, the network owners could charge companies like Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook, and Google an inflated rate in exchange for access to the fast lane, and the rest of us will end up in the slow lane.
Currently, a very weak piece of legislation is upholding net neutrality as law, but that could all change very soon. Just last month, the DC Circuit Court, whose power is second only to the Supreme Court of the United States, heard arguments from network providers who wish to do away with net neutrality.
If net neutrality is taken away, the landscape of the internet will change forever. Not only will connection speeds dwindle, but content will be limited, and fewer and fewer individuals will have access to the valuable resources that we take for granted today. Plus, the increased cost of access incurred by our favorite companies will be passed on to us as consumers.
To learn more about net neutrality, and how you can help to make sure it remains intact, check out the following resources: