Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission published a rule that reverses long-standing protections of the Internet known as “Net Neutrality.”
It’s not a done deal yet. Congress has another 40-plus days to overturn the rule. The problem for lawmakers who wish to overturn it is they are outnumbered by those in favor of it.
As of this writing, only one Republican Senator – Susan Collins of Maine – has promised to vote with Democrats against the rule.
Those in favor of maintaining Net Neutrality are painting this debate as corporate America versus American citizens. Is that an accurate portrayal? First let’s look at both sides of the issue.
The Argument for Net Neutrality
Those in favor of Net Neutrality see it as a principle that prohibits Internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites an Internet browser may wish to access.
They say Net Neutrality preserves the right to communicate freely online, and that it protects free speech.
They claim that without Net Neutrality, those Internet service providers will be able to call all the shots. They’ll be able to decide which websites, content and applications succeed and which ones fail.
Without Net Neutrality, they say those providers will be free to slow down competitors’ content and block political opinions with which they disagree.
And, they’ll be free to charge companies fees to receive preferential treatment, pushing others to slower access.
In addition to individuals, small businesses will suffer without Net Neutrality, it is predicted. Those businesses rely on an open Internet to start their businesses, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach customers.
Without Net Neutrality, Internet service providers will be able to use their powers to change the Internet’s level playing field. They’ll be able to provide “home field advantage” to larger companies with pockets deep enough to pay for special privileges.
The Argument Against Net Neutrality
Not everyone who is skeptical of the motives of large corporations such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon is in favor of Net Neutrality.
Josh Steimle, owner of the digital marketing firm MWI, believes Net Neutrality will give the U.S. government control over the Internet. He says this will be worse than having a variety of Internet service providers controlling it.
As a result, he believes Net Neutrality will actually result in less competition, less privacy and less freedom. He wants to see Internet control left to the free market.
“If we choose politicians, we will see the Internet become another mismanaged public monopoly, subject to political whims and increased scrutiny from our friends at the NSA,” Steimle wrote as a Forbes contributor.
“If we leave it up to the free market, we will, in time, receive more of what we want at a lower price. It may not be a perfect process, but it will be better than the alternative.”
Others against Net Neutrality say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. They say that even if the Internet is treated like a utility – such as water or electric – providers would still be able to establish tiered pricing for better Internet speeds and services. And this would defeat the very purpose of Net Neutrality.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that abolishing Net Neutrality would lead to more investment in the Internet service provider sector. That would allow those providers to create new services, which would translate into more competition. And the end result would be that the user will benefit.
What Do You Think?
On the surface, Net Neutrality seems to be all about granting us the freedom to access whatever information we want from the Internet without big corporations controlling our Internet experiences.
Digging deeper, some folks are outspoken about the importance of keeping the U.S. government from controlling the Internet. They believe leaving control in the hands of the free market is the only way to keep the Internet truly free.
I would love to hear what you think. How do you feel about Net Neutrality, and is it worth fighting to save?
One more thing…
Regardless of which camp you are in, I thought you’d enjoy this humorous video that makes a parallel between Net Neutrality and trying to buy a Whopper at Burger King:
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