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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