Note: This article was originally posted on my blog.
If you have followed the news throughout the past few years, you have likely heard mention of the term "Net Neutrality", and perhaps have heard the debate surrounding it. Unlike many "political" issues that concern our American society today, Net Neutrality absolutely affects everyone, especially considering you are reading this post on the internet. So what exactly is Net Neutrality? Why should you care? Is this just one more thing to get upset or divided about?
The following is a simple and applied definition of what Net Neutrality is from the "Battle for the Net" website:
WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY?
Net neutrality is the basic principle that protects our free speech on the Internet. "Title II" of the Communications Act is what provides the legal foundation for net neutrality and prevents Internet Service Providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from slowing down and blocking websites, or charging apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience (which they then pass along to consumers.)
So that sounds like a First Amendment and Equal Protection clause, but for internet communications. Cool! Now, that is a pro-Net Neutrality group's definition, so here is a more neutral definition from the Net Neutrality wikipedia page:
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
So a little bit more verbose, but it says the same thing. Net Neutrality makes sure that companies cannot give preference to certain web traffic, and cannot censor or extort websites that they don't like.
So why should you care? Simple: because you own a computer, smart phone, or other device that connects to and uses the internet. Because you pay for internet or mobile data service, hopefully with the expectation that you will access the websites and apps that you want to, without any hinderance. What does the folks at Battle for the Net have to say?
WHY IS NET NEUTRALITY IMPORTANT?
The Internet has thrived precisely because of net neutrality. It's what makes it so vibrant and innovative—a place for creativity, free expression, and exchange of ideas. Without net neutrality, the Internet will become more like Cable TV, where the content you see is what your provider puts in front of you.
Many argue that these laws are "regulations" that inhibit online business or increase government overreach onto the internet; these are absolutely the opposite of what Net Neutrality is all about. The laws protect the freedom that American citizens and businesses alike have had on the internet, and make sure that internet service providers or other organizations in positions of power– including the government– do not take advantage of that freedom for personal gain.
Without Net Neutrality rules in place, if an Internet Service Provider (ISP)– like Comcast, AT&T, Google Fiber, etc– found a more handsome, talented, or interesting Geoff Davis who also had a website, that ISP could slow down my site, and speed up or give search result preference to the "better" Geoff Davis.
That's kind of a silly example, but it's exactly what will happen if ISPs get more control over internet traffic, access, and performance. For a better example, imagine if Comcast bought Netflix, and AT&T bought Hulu; both ISPs could artificially slow down their competitor's video streaming service, or give preference to their own. Internet Service Providers could also force sites or applications like Netflix to pay more to provide their service through the ISP, or risk being slowed down or not provided altogether.
This is made worse when you realize that many Americans have little to no choice in choosing an Internet Service Provider, so they cannot readily switch providers to one that is more "fair".
Everyone will be affected if the FCC rolls back protections, so I urge everyone to participate with even one email, call, or online comment.
You probably got redirected to the Battle for the Net site when you reached my site, but go back and visit their site and you can send a pre-written comment to the FCC, after filling in your personal information. It only took me a minute!
For more projects and information regarding defending and promoting internet freedom and privacy, along with other activism projects, visit Battle for Net's parent organization Fight for the Future.
You don't even need to use the internet to help save it! Use Resistbot.io to send a fax to your Senators and House Representative to tell them to support Net Neutrality and internet freedom; all you have to do is text RESIST to 50409 to get started.
Finally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit organization that protects online privacy, freedom, and other civil liberties. Consider reading through their site and issues, or even donating to their cause!
The internet is for everyone, so please step up and help keep it that way!
My name is Geoff Davis, and I am a 25 year old frontend web developer working in Memphis, Tennessee. Yes, that means that I am super biased towards Net Neutrality, but if you read the various definitions and analyses of NN, you know that I have more stake in upholding those laws than simple career interest or bias.