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Lately, net neutrality is all over the news — it’s the latest hot topic. But what actually is net neutrality? Before writing this article, I had no idea, so I figured there had to be a lot of other ignorant people out there like me, teens and maybe some adults who didn’t understand the issue either.
My knowledge going into this was simple. Net neutrality had something to do with technology. And it was supported by President Obama. Great. I like technology. I like President Obama. Whats next?
I found an article on The Oatmeal that gives a hilariously in-depth view of the twists and turns of the elusive net neutrality. At its core, net neutrality aims to keep the internet free, open, and fair. It prevents major cable/telecom companies, such as Comcast and Time Warner, from choosing to funnel its subscribers to content that has commercial benefit to them as a business (channels that they own). For an extreme example, imagine a world where Comcast could dictate the type of articles you read, the type of content you watch, the types of searches you make — basically like the sponsored ads which are pushed to the top of your Google feed, but everywhere on every type of content you consume. Sounds crazy right? I mean, do you think a company would actually do that. Well . . . yes.
Last year, Comcast said that unless streaming giant Netflix paid them millions of dollars, it would slow down Netflix streaming services to all their providers. Netflix indignantly refused, but when Comcast throttled the bandwidth of its users, Netflix was forced to pony-up the cash. As a lover of Netflix and a Comcast subscriber, this example was sickening. Net neutrality might sound a little bit like a hippie utopia for the internet, but it is certainly better than the alternative — the Comcast and Netflix case being a prime example.
On the surface, the push against net neutrality seems understandable. Comcast created their internet service and a way to get content to people’s homes around the country. If Netflix wants to use their service to get into the homes of their consumers why shouldn’t they pay, like paying a fee on the toll section of the highway? Or better yet just build their own internet service? Yet net neutrality is not about control, it’s about freedom. The idea that cable monopolies could push content towards subscribers for their own commercial benefit, limit our ability to stream so that we are forced to buy their TV packages, and block our Skype calls so that we sign up for phone services is absurd and a clear call for the implementation of net neutrality.
And, this is a partisan issue. Obama’s decision to push the FCC toward net neutrality should not lead to a battle cry for Republicans to strike it down, but given the out-sized campaign contributions by the cable/telecom industry to Republican politicians, the politicization of the issue is guaranteed. In a country where there is a genuine interest in and commitment to ensuring the rights and civil liberties promised by our Founders, net neutrality serves to protect our constitutional values in the ever-advancing, modernizing world.