Arguments for Net Neutrality

Apr 22nd, 2014

As we’ve discussed previously, net neutrality is the concept of an open Internet in which all individual users have the same access to online content and are not charged fees for viewing certain types of data. There are many different arguments for net neutrality including the control of data, rights and freedoms to digital content, the need for fair competition, and the need for the same speed applied to all websites across the online board.

The first argument for net neutrality goes back to the cable companies. Proponents of net neutrality claim that these cable companies want to be able to discriminate against certain websites, while allowing others to run at faster speeds and download/upload faster than others. By doing so, cable companies would then be able to charge the companies that own these websites in order to ensure fast speeds, or the ability for their websites to load at all. Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and vice-president of Google argues that allowing cable companies to have this kind of control would “undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success.” This control of data, and disabling the cable companies that kind of control, is one of the biggest arguments for net neutrality – and a very good one at that!

Another very logical argument for net neutrality is that users are entitled to certain digital rights and freedoms. By allowing only certain types of content, or only certain websites to run at optimal speeds, or by charging users for access to certain information, it essentially eliminates certain freedoms. In fact, making the Internet a closed source that only a few of the privileged have access to would in effect, eliminate any independent news sources and would also stifle any future innovative, creative, and diverse web content. While today you can find just about any content in any style and any format online, should net neutrality cease to exist, only certain styles and formats would be allowed online, and the Internet would essentially look very different than it does today.

While the cessation of net neutrality would be bad for the individual user, it would also be unfair towards certain companies and owners of websites. Smaller companies and websites for instance, would likely be unable to pay the high fees and taxes that cable companies would be allowed to charge and so, they would essentially disappear and only the richer websites and companies with far more resources would be allowed to have their websites downloaded at reasonable speeds, and be accessed by all users. This would create an online monopoly by these wealthier companies and would eliminate any competition or innovation.

There are many arguments for net neutrality, and for the Internet to remain the open source that it currently is. All of these arguments ultimately point to the same goal, however. That is, preserving the fairness and rights of both Internet users, as well as the companies and website owners that are currently allowing access to that information – any information, in any format, and at optimal speeds.

Arguments against Net Neutrality

Apr 15th, 2014

We have discussed net neutrality at some length here on this blog. And while it may seem that the fairness net neutrality provides to users, companies, and website owners, there are still some that argue against the idea of net neutrality. Not surprisingly, most of the opponents are telecom and cable companies, which would be given the upper hand should net neutrality ever cease to exist. The reasons they give for being against net neutrality include the need for prioritization of bandwidth, the well-being of online users, and the fact that net neutrality doesn’t really exist within the current Internet infrastructure.

The first argument against net neutrality, telecom and cable companies state, is that there is a need for prioritization of bandwidth – and that net neutrality disallows that prioritization. They state that companies that have the ability to pay for faster bandwidth should be able to do so, and that by instating a tiered service, they would be able to do so. The extra revenue that telecom and cable companies would receive for doing so could t hen be used to increase broadband access for all customers. These same companies state that without that additional revenue, they wouldn’t be able to invest in advanced fiber-optic networks and provide on-going advancements in technology. However, the argument against that is that telecom and cable companies will still be making revenue for providing their services, and that this revenue can be used for any future investments needed.

Proponents of net neutrality claim that they are doing so in the best interests of the general public and all Internet users, and opponents of the idea claim the same thing. The difference is that while proponents can point towards certain rights and freedoms – such as freedom of speech and freedom to information – opponents of net neutrality are unable to do so. Opponents aren’t able to pinpoint why net neutrality would be detrimental to Internet users and instead, only point to the idea of a neutral public option to still encourage competition in place of forcing Internet service providers to remain neutral. While there is no proof that such an option would make it better for Internet users, there still remains quite a bit of doubt.

Lastly, opponents of net neutrality claim that this is a concept that doesn’t even really exist today and so, they don’t understand why legislators are so keen on introducing the idea. They claim that Internet users as well as companies and website owners still have to pay for access to a certain amount of bandwidth, and storage capacity for their websites. While this is true, it doesn’t exactly speak against net neutrality. Should net neutrality cease to exist, not only would users have to pay for the bandwidth that they’re currently using, they’d also have to pay just to be granted access to certain websites, and if they weren’t deemed privileged enough, or if they didn’t pay enough money, they may not be able to download or view certain websites at all.

With all that telecom and cable companies stand to lose with net neutrality, it’s not surprising that they are the biggest opponents of net neutrality. However, in order for everyone to win – including the general public – net neutrality is something that has to be here to stay!

What is Net Neutrality?

Apr 08th, 2014

Net neutrality is a relatively new term, but it’s a concept that’s been debated for years. It’s also known as network neutrality and Internet neutrality, but whatever name it’s given, the concept is the same. The idea of net neutrality is that ISP, or Internet service providers, along with governments, should be treating all online data the same, and that they should not be allowed to discriminate by user, content, site, platform, or application. It’s this omission of discrimination that would allow the Internet to remain an open and free source, as it is now. If discrimination were allowed to be put into place, the Internet would become a closed source, and certain users may have to pay more to be allowed the same type of online freedom they’re currently enjoying.

While all countries are, and should be, concerned about net neutrality, it’s in the United States that concerns are really being raised; and the debate is getting very heated. Senator Franken of Minnesota has stated that “Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time,” saying that basically, an open Internet – or the case for net neutrality – is the same argument as that of freedom of speech. Tim Wu, a media law professor from Columbia, has also likened the argument for net neutrality to that of the argument for a common carrier – an idea that suggests the Internet should be offered by a person or a company according to legislation that would be put in place. It’s this idea that goes hand in hand with the concept of net neutrality – allowing people on the Internet to communicate easily, and for the equal treatment of all data.

Should net neutrality ever cease to exist, users could be charged simply for requesting access to certain information. This has already been seen with certain streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon, but without net neutrality put into place, additional and exorbitant charges could be placed on any and every site, including news sites, social media sites, and any other site online.

Some individuals argue that net neutrality no longer exists, and some of these individuals have even protested the Federal Communications Commission (FCC,) even though the FCC had previously struck down rulings for an open Internet. Now however, the FCC is beginning to take strides towards a new open Internet, or net neutrality, and they are now working in the public’s interest. While this work may at first seem to be entirely for the public, the FCC is mainly concerned about the monopoly that a closed Internet could create; something that would be negative for both the economy, as well as the general public.

Net neutrality is an online concept, but it’s not one that’s difficult to understand. Simply put, net neutrality allows for an open Internet and provides information free of charge to users across all websites. Without it, only the privileged or certain individuals and corporations would have access to specific web pages, or the Internet as a whole. It’s important that net neutrality remains in place, so that each individual can retain the rights they’re entitled to.
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