This week we are revisiting the subject of “things you should care about that you might not know you should care about.” That’s right — we’re talking about network neutrality.
So what is network neutrality (or just ‘net’ neutrality, if you feel comfortable throwing around the lingua franca)? It’s pretty simple in concept. The idea is that the Internet should maintain equal access rights for all of its users. Of course, corporate interests could make a lot of money by doing away with if net neutrality.
Imagine this situation: Comcast decides that in order to make a bunch of money, they will start charging Web sites to give that site faster connection speeds for its users. This, of course, would allow big companies (hereafter referred to as The Man) to dominate the Web and edge out all the smaller guys (hereafter known as Internet start-up companies who keep the ‘net fresh). If this were true the Internet would never be the mosh pit of creativity and coolness that it is today.
Another example would be The Man trying to throttle or purposefully lower Internet connection speeds to the end user — you and I. It would target specific users who use a lot of bandwidth — putting a cap on the amount of bandwidth one can use. While they claim this is only aimed at people using peer-2-peer programs to illegally download content, we doubt that’s the only reason. It would also limit the people who use a lot of bandwidth legally.
That is why net neutrality is necessary. By keeping the Internet “neutral” for all users, the playing field is leveled. Net neutrality has been popping up in the news a lot lately as it is becoming a growing issue, which will directly effect how you and your (future) children.
In fact, net neutrality has recently reared its controversial head in the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More than $7 billion of this act will be spent on improving America’s current broadband coverage, bringing it to those living in rural areas and thus ensuring every American’s God-given right to stream online hot, steamy, high definition … cooking shows.
Net neutrality advocates are asking the government to require the service providers who receive government money (most likely the big players: Comcast, AT&T, Time-Warner Cable) to adhere to special rules ensuring the free flow of Internet traffic. Unsurprisingly, prospective companies have said that if such rules are set into place, they may refuse to apply for the stimulus, and our mountain men will be left sitting at home with a full bottle of oil and no videos showing how to … cook with it.
Hopefully at this point you’re geared up to fight for the rights of the “Innerwebz” and wondering what you can do to help. The best plan of attack would be to stay informed, know and understand what your Internet service provider is up to and pay attention during elections — very soon there will be issues on the ballot regarding the Internet and its regulation.
It would be more fun to reach columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons on Twitter (binaryboys) than at firstname.lastname@example.org.