Net neutrality is the backbone of media freedom. If it is repealed, we will lose our freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of choice. Scary, isn’t it?
Net Neutrality – What It Is and Why It Must Be Protected
The Free Internet
The beauty of the internet is that it is free for all. We can decide which content we want to access. Entrepreneurs can launch their online businesses within a matter of minutes and reach out to customers all over the world.
As the popularity of the internet grew, so did the opportunities. But things could change now that the FCC has had its way. They are planning to roll back existing protections for net neutrality. And if net neutrality is repealed, the internet will no longer be open. It will no longer be the ocean of opportunities that it is today.
Oppressive governments hate the internet. They censor internet content with the objective of ensuring that dissenting voices are not heard. They are well aware of the power of the internet to mobilize people. So they stop it by blocking services.
Such repressions have long-lasting consequences. In countries that lack an open internet, the government and other entities that are friendly with that government can effectively decide what content people can access on the internet. They can shut down apps and websites they do not support.
For example, popular services like Twitter and Facebook are blocked in many countries.
The internet has so far been free and open in the USA. But that may change soon. Agreed, America isn’t run by an oppressive regime and Americans do not have to deal with massive internet censorship at the moment. It is a democracy, but democracies may also have polarized politics.
Polarized Political Interests
Political interests and business interests can threaten internet freedom everywhere. It can happen in America. Major wireless carriers and internet service providers in the US are already spending millions of dollars in lobbying with the sole objective of destroying net neutrality. These companies are trying their best to destroy your right to a neutral internet.
If net neutrality is repealed, ISPs will be able to give preferential treatment to websites and internet services they benefit from and block those services they don’t. At the same time, they can charge an extra fee from companies like Netflix for providing faster access to their consumers. Here are the possible effects of repealing net neutrality.
Internet Access Will Become More Expensive
Americans are already paying a lot more than people of other countries for slow internet. ISPs in the USA do not have to disclose their actual internet speeds. So they have no reason to be good to consumers. In the near future, the ‘basic’ internet service plans will not have many of the popular internet services.
Often times, people do not realize who owns their favorite services. If net neutrality is repealed, Netflix may not be accessible at full speed on the basic plan, but Hulu may be accessible because it is owned by Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Disney, and Time Warner. And these companies are the major internet service providers in the US and as such, services that they own will definitely receive preferential treatment. ISPs want net neutrality to be repealed because that will allow them to decide what content people can access on the internet.
The Internet As We Know It
The internet is a world of opportunity. It has fuelled the growth of many businesses. The startup culture that we see today was actually a product of the internet. It allowed college dropouts to build multi-billion dollar businesses from their garage. If net neutrality is repealed, the internet may become less attractive to talent.
When Spotify, Netflix, or Amazon came along, big corporations didn’t pay attention. They did not expect these startups to be the household names they are today. Any decision against net neutrality can still disrupt these giant corporations, but at least they have the resources to buy more bandwidth to make their services available at full speeds. Smaller companies will be the worst hit if the internet ceases to be open.
An ISP can easily block a website or service that they find competitive. That means any website or startup that threatens big corporations like Time Warner, AT &T, NBC, or Comcast is at risk. In addition, data-hungry future startups may have to pay tolls to ISPs to make their services available. Comcast has already started building a content delivery network to fasten delivery to their customers. Their competitors do not have that privilege.
A ‘Closed’ Internet Thwarts Creativity and Enterprise
All the content on the internet flows through ISPs. They know what content people are accessing. They can monitor breakthrough startups that will eventually become major online players in the future and throttle them before they get off the ground. They can also launch their own copycat versions of these startups.
If net neutrality is repealed, our future will be darker than we can imagine. It is important that we act now. Make your voice heard in favor of net neutrality. Any action against net neutrality is an attack on our freedoms. So, act now to stop it. The internet is ours and we must fight to keep it open.