By Mitch Pimento
The internet as we know it is a complexly free and open medium. While all other media platforms have at least some form of regulation or censorship, the internet has very little, if any. It is the only place in the world where all users have equal access to all content. Providers cannot censor that content, and anyone in the world with a device capable of doing so has equal access to the internet. When we go online we have certain expectations. We expect to have access to any information we want. We expect to browse any website we want. We expect that any content we view is uncensored. We expect net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use, at the additional cost of the consumer. It is overarching idea that keeps the internet the free and open medium that made it so ubiquitous and popular among our ever-younger population. Net neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.
In April 2017, newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai. Subsequent to this appointment, a bill was proposed in Congress that would end net neutrality in the US, and on May 16 the FCC voted to allow the bill to move forward. This was all done with the understanding that ending net neutrality would be the single largest threat to the internet as we know it.
Ending the open internet would place complete control of virtually all content in the hands of internet providers. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner, at&t, and Verizon would have the power to decide which websites are viewed, by throttling upload and download speeds on a pay-to-play basis. Speed will be determined by how much a consumer is willing to pay. Users subscribed to different providers will have access to different content, all of which is up to the provider’s discretion. The cable companies would have the power to limit or block content they don’t like or applications that compete with their own offerings.
Internet giants google, YouTube, and Facebook have all signed on to show their support for net neutrality; the very reason in which they were able to start in the first place and foster enormous success. If we end the open internet we may never see the life changing ideas and innovations brought to us by companies like these.
Net neutrality is also crucial for entrepreneurs, who rely on the open internet to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach a wide array of customers. Startups and small businesses will never survive if never have the capital to compete with large corporations to pay for access. The open internet provides a platform like no other to foster growth and innovation. How would the next disruptive and groundbreaking idea, technology, or company emerge if internet service providers only let incumbents succeed?
The internet in its current form is a truly level playing field. Rolling back the policies protecting the open internet would be detrimental to marginalized communities’ media outlets have misrepresented or failed to serve. The internet gives a voice to those who don’t have one. Maintaining a free and open internet is critical to continue the evolution and expansion of internet networks and foster an environment where all Internet companies, regardless of their size or background, have the ability to thrive.