Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why is Net Neutrality so important to you? by Mike Fatum

The internet has been abuzz this past week about a huge issue in politics - and no, we're not talking about closing a couple of lanes on a bridge in New Jersey. Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled to end an FCC ruling that required internet providers to treat all traffic that flowed through them to the public equally. They couldn't stomp out one particular web site or another based on profit or personal whim. They've been fighting this rule for years, hoping to get the opportunity to squeeze even more profit out of companies like Netflix, who will now have to pay extra to each carrier just to get their content to you, the consumer, at a decent speed. This means we will likely have to pay more for these services as well. Here's a helpful infographic:

The judges in the matter ruled that this rule was "unnecessary", because, and I quote, “Without broadband provider market power, consumers, of course, have options. They can go to another broadband provider if they want to reach particular edge providers or if their connections to particular edge providers have been degraded.”

To anyone who's used the internet in the past ten years, we know this reasoning is complete and utter crap.

First of all, there are huge chunks of the nation where there aren't 'options.' You either pay for internet with whatever company owns the lines in that particular area, or you don't get internet. (Or you can get it, but it has to be through *shudder* dial-up.) In addition, in the big city apartments where a lot of people live, you're stuck with whatever provider the landlord has chosen. And thirdly, now that this is not a rule, every company will be doing it. If I switch to AT&T because Comcast is squashing Netflix, Netflix might be faster but AT&T will be squashing Hulu.

This terrifying vision of the future brought to you by the Federal Appeals Court
 Net Neutrality is the reason the internet has become the huge force for both information and pop culture that it has in the past three decades. With Net Neutrality gone, we're left with a future that's sort of terrifying. Yes, losing access to Netflix isn't that bad. But in a world where the NSA is apparently reading everything we do online, it's not too much of a jump to see a world where we suddenly have China's level of internet "access." Paranoid? Maybe. But it doesn't change the fact that the possibility exists.

The good news is that the fight isn't over, not by a long shot. And while we all wait for the FCC to get their act together, we can help, too. Write your representative. Explain, in detail, why Net Neutrality is important to you, and should be important to them, too. There's a stereotype right now that Congress can't get anything done, but losing access to Breaking Bad might unite us all.

Doing nothing, however, will lead to a future of censorship, pure and simple.

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