Our Freedom Loving Concept in Danger

Netneutralitycopy1Do you frequently browse the internet? Well, you’re on the internet right at this moment reading this. But what if something were to happen in the future, and suddenly your access to this site either vanishes or becomes very unstable? Well, that’s something you don’t need to worry about living in America because of this thing called network neutrality, more widely known as net neutrality. Net neutrality means that the internet is a free and open place where you can view anything legal as much as you want without worry. However, the concept of net neutrality is in danger: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 order that imposed network neutrality regulations on wireline broadband services. This could very well mean that the free and open internet we all know, love and expect could be gone – for good. Net neutrality is something we need to protect in order to keep the internet the free and open ocean of content we all know and love.

Most people know that when you do anything with the internet without encrypting your traffic, the ISP (Internet service provider) whose service you pay for can see everything you do. Right now the only worry anyone has with this is if they’re up to something illegal, for example downloading the latest episode of a popular T.V. show. The ISP will see this and report it to proper authorities and you may or may not end up having a lawsuit on your hands. However, if net neutrality ends up being compromised or abolished, your ISP can freely limit your traffic. You can be discriminated against for content you like to view often; maybe you like to partake in viewing free porn online every day or every few days. If you have Time Warner, traffic from free porn might become greatly limited or maybe even completely blocked, since the CEO of Time Warner doesn’t like free porn. Or maybe your ISP just doesn’t like you and decides to throttle you or your neighborhood, leaving you sitting there wondering why your connection has become so much slower. It’s also possible that you have two different companies providing you with your cable television and high speed internet. If your ISP ends up finding out about this, they would be free to slow down your internet while sending you ads to switch to their cable television service. Even if you do end up switching, your ISP could just leave your internet at that slower speed for as long as they want.

This of course is only the surface of things; these involve the user and the user’s habits. But what if a big successful company with large amounts of money comes along? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big company, but a company can come in and pay an ISP for priority speeds. Their site and services will end up loading blazingly fast at what seems to be no charge. Here’s a good analogy using a telephone company: imagine if the phone company could mess with your calls every time you tried to order pizza from Domino’s, because Pizza Hut is paying them to route their calls first. That doesn’t sound appealing at all now, does it? Especially if you’re a person who loves Domino’s and doesn’t care for Pizza Hut. Now let’s look at a hypothetical example: replace Pizza Hut with Google and Domino’s with Facebook. Many people use Facebook very often, but what if Google suddenly decided they want Google+ to be more popular? They pour some money into the big ISP’s and everyone on those ISP’s will no longer be able to browse Facebook at a reasonable speed, or maybe the site would end up getting completely blocked. Of course this could happen the other way around as well, or maybe Facebook will directly compete for speed and pay ISP’s the same amount as Google or even more.

These “faster lanes” that will be paid for are separate from the “regular lanes,” so in theory your browsing experience shouldn’t be affected by things like this. This isn’t true; as the ISP has full power of how fast or slow those regular lanes can run, as stated above. The company who’s paying off the ISP to boost their services may very well have some say in how fast their competitors’ services will load when going through the regular lane. In fact, things like this that are going against net neutrality are already happening. While not a company in itself, P2P (peer-to-peer) file transfers were completely blocked by Comcast Corp. It was claimed that this massive blocking was due to network congestion, but tests by the Associated Press found that this throttling was completely unrelated to network congestion. If net neutrality were to fall P2P transfers may very well vanish completely, even if it’s from a reputable company who is legally giving out their content.

This doesn’t stop at companies paying money to get faster speeds, but it also continues on to the ISP demanding the company using their lines pay them or see their users’ speeds drop. For example, the video streaming company Netflix Inc., who supports net neutrality and is trying to lobby for stronger net neutrality rules, was a victim of this. Comcast Corp had complained that the large amount of traffic from Netflix users were costing them a lot of money, and started to throttle all Netflix traffic that passed through their lines since at least October of last year. Unfortunately, Netflix ended up agreeing to pay Comcast in order to give their users full speed access to their services.

The loss of net neutrality will also bring harm to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Imagine if net neutrality didn’t exist when Mark Zuckerberg co-founded the widely used social networking site Facebook. Myspace was the popular social networking site back then, and Facebook was of course just a small newcomer. Myspace could have spent large amounts of money in order to get put in the fast lane while Facebook sat back in the shadows of the regular lane due lack of capital. Because Facebook would have much slower loading speed, eventually people would stop using it and Myspace would have held its spot as the social networking giant. This is the same with small businesses; the big guys will be able to pay up in order to have their content load fast while the smaller guys are left to fight each other in the congested regular lanes. If a small business had a life changing invention, it’s possible that no one would ever hear about it because no one would be able to access their site in order to read about it. This means that that small business would end up closing down and something big, maybe a cure for AIDS, will go down with them, never to see the light of day again.

Net neutrality is a very important concept which should be firmly written into law. This is to prevent ISP’s from taking advantage over the fact that they own the only way of connecting to the internet. This could affect the content we view to the extent that we would have no choice as to what kind of content we’re able to see on the internet. If we want to keep the integrity of the internet, we need to act now. Contact your senator and tell them about how you feel that net neutrality is something that is necessary. Look online for one of the many petitions that call out government to take action. You can even contact the FCC themselves and tell them they need to strengthen their grip on net neutrality. If we let up even for a second, net neutrality may disappear from our country – and that is unacceptable.


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