What does Net Neutrality mean? It means a loss of freedom, and that should mean a lot to you.
The Internet has become a staple of North American lives. Most people think of it as a wide open playground where you can grab any information that you want. People believe that you can access any legal content you want, regardless of the message it delivers and whether or not it aligns with the beliefs of your provider. It is believed that all information is provided equally, at the same rate of transfer and with the same ease of access.
That isn’t the case. At the end of January 2014, the existing laws for Net Neutrality were struck from the books. If something isn’t done soon then this open policy or ‘Net Neutrality‘ will cease to exist. What you see on the Internet will be a direct result of corporate policies and profit. You may no longer see controversial topics or competitors advertisements. Consumer privacy will be a thing of the past as Internet traffic becomes more heavily monitored in order to direct people towards favored sites.
The Big Boys Control the Playground
There are actually only a small amount of telecommunication providers. Even if you have a small company providing your services, they still rely on the services of one of the big boys to ensure that you get your signal.
The elimination of Net Neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (primarily the big boys) can now charge content providers for a faster lane that will bypass their competition. Another words, if you have the money you can skip ahead of everyone else in line. It also means that on your way by everyone, you can take everything out of their baskets that you don’t like.
What this means is that every piece of data we send or receive will be under heavier observation so that the data we see can be manipulated. We will only see what they want us to see. Systems will be manipulated so that data flow is slowed or totally blocked for data that the big boys don’t want us to see. They can also make it that we will have faster, easier access to the information that they want us to see.
Money Makes the World go Around
Unless we can force the FCC to step up and reinforce a free and open internet we will see a change in our Internet.
Think of the Internet as a restaurant, currently you can order anything you want to drink. Coke, coffee, milk, Pepsi – they have it all, but then Pepsi comes along and hands them some money. Now all you can order are Pepsi products. So that they aren’t accused of discriminating the restaurant will still carry other beverages such as coffee, but they are stored in a back room and it takes forever to get them, in fact by the time the waitress brings you your coffee it’s cold. So which are you more inclined to order, the Pepsi which you can have now, or the coffee which will probably show up sometime after your meal? Sure you could go to a different restaurant, but there are only two in town and the other one is known for bad service. It doesn’t look like you have a lot of choices.
What Does Net Neutrality Mean?
Network neutrality meant that there were ‘common carrier’ rules applied to the Internet that essentially prevented network owners from discriminating against information flow, except to ease congestion or block spam. ‘Common Carrier’ rules apply to all telecommunications services, such as phone lines meaning that there is no favoritism in provided services.
That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t push ads towards you through legitimate means. If the broadband provider gave you tools to access the Internet itself then they can control that portion. For example if they give you their own web browser, or an access portal for email they have full control of the advertising, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to control where you go with it. That would be like Toyota saying that you can’t drive through Detroit.
How Can We Fix it?
The problem came around because the FCC classified the Internet as an ‘Information service’ under the 1996 telecommunications act, which is not regulated by ‘common carrier’ rules. We need the Internet reclassified by the FCC as a ‘telecommunication service’ to ensure that the Internet remains neutral.
Unfortunately, the FCC had proposed a new regulation that would allow companies to pay for a ‘fast lane’, effectively elimination all neutrality on the Internet. As an Internet user, you need to stand up and have your voice heard. Let the FCC know that you oppose their new rule and you want to see a reclassification of the Internet.
There are hundreds of petitions out there where the people are letting their opinions be known. Join us in the fight for Net Neutrality.
Here are just a few of the petitions you can add your name to:
Photo Credit: Free Press