Editorial published in the print edition of Elon University’s student-run newspaper, The Pendulum, on November 19, 2014.
The power and influence of the Internet has changed the world in just a few decades.
The U.S. government is currently in the midst of changing the speed and accessibility rules of the Internet. Net neutrality, or keeping the Internet detached from the control of broadband network providers, has been a subject of recent debate and could have far-reaching implications depending on the decisions soon to be made.
President Obama, who recently proclaimed himself pro-net neutrality, said we need the “strongest possible rules” to keep an open Internet. And he’s right.
The Internet is intended for open use available to anyone and any upcoming changes should reflect that.
The whole concept of net neutrality is based on large broadband network providers, such as Time Warner and Comcast, trying to control the data they circulate. Ending net neutrality would allow these larger companies to take over the faster Internet speeds, also known as “the fast lane,” and leave smaller companies and start-ups with the slower Internet speeds, or “the slow lane.”
This would effectively end any chance newer businesses have competing in the Internet arena.
A component of the issue is paid prioritization, which allows Internet service providers to charge some Internet content companies, such as Netflix, an extra fee or faster access to customers. This would lead to an increase in membership fees for certain websites.
According to a recent University of Delaware poll, 81 percent of the public opposes paid prioritization.
Interestingly, in the United States, we pay more for our Internet than almost anywhere else in the world, yet we do not have the fastest download speeds — we’re behind countries such as South Korea, Lithuania and Andorra.
A large part of the current issue is people do not understand what net neutrality is and why it is important to keep.
The Federal Communications Commission is now working on balancing the public’s call for net neutrality with the broadcast companies’ desire to up investments by charging for better downloads and streaming. To open up conversation on the issue, the FCC took public comments for 120 days and received millions of responses, most of which strongly advocated for net neutrality.
Net neutrality is a burgeoning issue as the Internet becomes even more integrated into our everyday lives. The Internet is a level playing field, and changing the access to data only benefits large companies.