Net Neutrality: The Internet of the Haves and Have-Nots?
Recently, there has been a lot of talk on net neutrality. Simply put, net neutrality is the theory that Internet providers, (i.e Comcast, Verizon, AT&T) should not tier their Internet speed and availability according to bandwidth use or a price the user pays for the service. In essence, the more high speed Internet you use, the more you have to cough up, creating two types of Internet users; the haves and the have-nots.
The controversy comes from the theory that those who demand more bandwidth should pay more. Just like our electricity bill, we pay for the amount that we use. However, others feel differently. Companies, like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, believe the Internet should be a bottomless supply of information and that we should continue to pay the flat fee we are all accustomed to. Everyone has a motive, and in some lights both hold perfectly good ground. So what is there to do now?
For people who are pro net neutrality, the issue is not entirely about the money; it’s about the Internet as a basic human right. It is about access to information. That being said, you cannot blame the businesses when they think about profit; it’s their entire purpose of being, it’s their “reason d’etre.” They have to look towards the near future and think profits; real long term in this case isn’t a consideration. It’s other institutions like governments, non-profits, and NGOs that often think about the social, political, and financial repercussions of changing the current net neutrality stance. What will happen if we change the way things currently are?
Let’s imagine a world with two types of Internet. One where people can afford to stream their HD videos, music, store documents in clouds, and video conference while the other Internet world would consist of email, limited internet browsing, and instant messaging. Of course there are many versions of this “tiered” Internet but the picture is clear. A tiered Internet, one with limitations and one without, will create two vastly different online experiences. Constructing a digital world of haves and have-nots.
So? You get what you pay for right? Quality costs money after all.
Yes but that’s not the point. The point is one of access to information, innovation, and community. With a world of information at your fingertips, what is stopping you from learning something new? Colleges like Harvard and MIT now regularly put up their class materials and text online for free; breaking down traditional barriers of education and knowledge. The recent ability to download the entire English Wikipedia library for free as a compressed 6-gig file is a great example of such revolution.
The Internet has had a profound effect on transparency and the breaking down of the mass media monster machine, why go back to that? The democratization of information and the shrinking of the information gap/advantage are happening at a faster rate each day. Did everyone have a chance to partake in the NY Times online deficit project? That’s one great example right there. Here are the results, it’s not to late to try it yourself.
Letting net neutrality die will have dire consequences. Why be programmed by mass media and the few who benefit from it? We have tasted knowledge freedom in a revolutionary fashion so why take that away from those who have the largest appetite for information; the ones who would use it best/need it the most? Innovation helps everyone so why punish our globalized community for the sake of quarterly profits? In the new online, social, global world, we are all connected closer than many believe.
Net neutrality is good for everyone.