Today was a big day for the issue known as “Net Neutrality”. President Obama started off by endorsing it, and outlining a plan on how to keep the internet free and open.
Shortly thereafter, Texas Senator Ted Cruz decided he’d issue a rebuttal via Twitter:
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
"Net neutrality" will lead to fewer choices, fewer opportunities & higher prices for consumers http://t.co/H0DJQTugmt
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 11, 2014
Senator Cruz is (obviously) uneducated on the subject, and has decided instead to spew propaganda to further his political agenda against the President and his Affordable Healthcare Act. No matter which side of the proverbial aisle you sit on, however, Net Neutrality is an issue you need to support and care about deeply. That is, if you care about the future of technological innovation and the future of the society that your children grow up in and inherit. In this article I’ll explain a bit about what Net Neutrality is, why it’s important, and I’ll give you some ways you can get involved to help us keep the internet free and open.
What is Net Neutrality
As of right now we live in a pretty open market when it comes to the internet. You’re free to go where you want, consume what you want, and access it at whichever speed tier you deem necessary for those activities. The big telecom companies desperately want to change that. Monopolistic entities like Comcast are lobbying for “fast lanes” which users will have to pay extra for in order to consume the content they want. Basically the telecoms are going to start walling off sections of the internet to those who can’t afford it or refuse to pay their outlandish tariffs.
Not only that, they’re also threatening businesses as well. They want businesses to pay more for access to their customers. Think I’m crazy? Well, they’re already doing it to Netflix. Just imagine if you’re a startup company trying to attract new users on a shoestring budget. If Comcast has their way, you might have to pay them in order for people to access your content or at least to have them access it at a decent speed. For companies like Google and Facebook that might not be a big deal, but for small businesses, it’s a huge deal.
The idea of Net Neutrality means keeping the internet free and open. No fast lanes. No restrictions. Just the same internet we’ve grown to know, love, and depend on for the last 10-15 years. President Obama’s idea of treating the internet like a utility is intriguing to me. Basically he’s saying we should act as though the internet is in the same class as water and power services. It’s an interesting thought, but I still don’t think it’s the perfect solution.
Why is Net Neutrality Important
As someone who works for an internet-based company, the idea of tiered or restricted internet scares the hell out of me. However, even if you’re not a “techie” you should be just as worried. More and more schools are implementing online tools and utilities in the classroom, and that means that kids today need the internet in order to get a decent education. If the we abandon Net Neutrality, schools, libraries, and other public institutions will all be subjected to the same tiered system. This could cause schools to abandon online curriculum and slow down innovative teaching methods that help students learn and retain information more efficiently. That might also mean tuition hikes at private schools and universities. Do you think they’re going to incur that cost and not pass it along to the students? I don’t think so.
Another thing to think about is how this will change your daily life. How many times per day do you check your phone or tablet? How often do you jump on Amazon to order something? How often do you and your family sit down together to watch Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go? Ending Net Neutrality will fundamentally change the way you do all of these things. You might wind up paying extra the next time you want to order a pizza online, or sent to a different search engine instead of Google because you haven’t paid the surcharge to be able to access that quadrant of the web. Does that sound like fun? Again, I don’t think so.
By instituting true Net Neutrality we ensure that everyone has full, unfiltered access to the internet and all of the doors that it has the potential to open. The internet was originally created to be a worldwide source of information, like a public library that you can access 24/7 with no limitation on the number of things you can read, download, or consume. By putting up roadblocks and denying certain classes of individuals and businesses access to this information is spitting in the face of the spirit in which this amazing utility was created.
What Can I Do to Help Save the Internet?
My first suggestion is to write to your senators and congressmen (and women). Tell them that you’re in favor of a free and open internet, and that you’re not interested in corporate America dictating what you can/can’t have access to. After writing to your elected officials, consider signing a petition like this one. Finally, educate your friends, family, and co-workers on the idea of Net Neutrality and the companies/people who are trying to destroy it. Explain to them that this isn’t an issue of Republican vs Democrat. This is an issue of freedom, and that is something that everybody agrees on no matter which side of the aisle they choose to sit on.
The internet has given us so many wonderful things, and I’m not just talking about cat videos. I have a full-time job that I love because of the internet. You’re able to reconnect with old friends that live thousands of miles away because of the internet. And our country is creating thousands of jobs every single year because of the internet. Let’s do everything we can to keep it safe, please!