Editorial: Why net neutrality is important

Net neutrality is an idea that mostly anyone could get behind: it’s the concept of open internet.

It’s the way that people are going about protecting the free flow of information online that is causing a stir.

Recently President Obama spoke on the issue through a video; he urged the Federal Communications Commision to put the Internet under Title II of the Communications act of 1934. Doing so would, effectively, classify the service as a common carrier and give the FCC authority over the Internet. In other words, the Internet would become regulated like phone lines and electricity.

If the FCC doesn’t take control of Internet Service Providers, companies like Verizon and Comcast would be able to charge websites more money for a “fast lane,” but the internet wouldn’t become any faster. ISPs would end up having to slow down other sites who can’t cough up the big bucks.

This would affect every person who uses the internet. Sites would be unavailable or unusable. The unique and defining aspect of the internet is the way it can connect every person to each other. If this were to change each ISP would be able to block or inhibit the way a user can access the world wide web, making it no longer worldwide.

The FCC tried to create legislation to regulate the internet in 2010, called the Open Internet Order. It was thrown out of court for not placing ISPs under one of the seven titles in the communications act. While still trying to find a way to enforce guidelines on carriers, the FCC have begun rewriting the legislation. In the 180 days they allowed public comment on the issue, 4 million people voiced their opinion.

Failing to protect net neutrality would end the internet as we know it. Less could be done in the way of innovation and creation.

First Amendment lawyer Marvin Ammori, who worked on the initial suit between Comcast and the FCC in 2007, expressed how this could suppress ingenuity. Ammori used the example of Twitter and how when people heard of the 140 character rule, no one believed it would take off. Fast forward to today where Twitter has changed the way information travels. If in those early days the founders had to go through an investor to get funding for a “fast lane” then they would have been hard pressed.

This is what could happen to the future of the Internet, ideas that would be world changing could become scraps on the cutting room floor. There’s no way to know what ideas are winners until they are in the public’s hands.

And that’s what the Internet is, the collective public. If there was a strain on any aspect of creation it would be a step backwards. ISPs would have too much power to regulate themselves, they would have a monopoly on technology.

It’s important to be aware of how these decisions are made because this one in particular affects us most. Everyday we check our email, stay in touch on Facebook or watch the viral video of the moment. Although these things seem insignificant it’s the way we interact with each other, which could be the most important thing we do.

You can send your comments to [email protected] and let them know how you feel this issue could be solved. The public voice we have is the most powerful way to send a message, use it wisely.