Saturday, July 7, 2007

FTC Abandons Net Neutrality

Get ready for Netageddon, ladies & gentlemen. What does this decision mean for you? Well first, I'll delve into what Net Neutrality means.

As with most things in the United Sates, there are rules and regulations set in place. However, there is an exception that most people are familiar with but may be unaware of: the Internet. The term for freedom of the Internet is called net neutrality. Net neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. (Save The Internet). In other words, anyone using the Internet can view whatever he or she pleases without the service provider’s consent. This seems like a simple concept, but anytime money is involved, someone is looking to profit.

Net neutrality is more important than most may believe. If there is nothing to protect it, the Internet as we know it would be worse than we could imagine. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner all want to put an end to net neutrality. (Save The Internet). If net neutrality was ever to be removed, Internet service providers (ISPs) could limit what the people are allowed to view. Without net neutrality, the ISPs would basically take bribes from websites that wish to be accessed by users of that provider, and they would block competition all together. The fear is that certain websites that make large profits are going to be controlling the Internet and what people can and cannot view. The bigger fear is that for users to view certain websites, they would have to pay the provider extra, not to mention the cost of desired speeds for those websites.

Innovation happened online because the transport (the pipes) were largely ‘dumb.’” (Susan Crawford). The term “dumb” is referring to the relationship that the connection users had to the Internet was unbiased and free of propaganda: the means of connection has no relation with the connected. The costs of starting a website, if net neutrality was removed, could be unreasonable for many, considering all the extra expenses added to paying off the service providers to allow users access. Many of today’s huge websites started off small and gained popularity. If there is no room to start new websites, there will be less innovation and incentive. ISPs can prevent tomorrow’s Google’s, Yahoo’s, and Ebay’s, by adding fees to use the new websites. In a letter to the FCC on August 6, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association wrote that "Regulation is not necessary to ensure the competitive availability of Internet content, applications and services. Its only effects would be to deter investment, interfere with deployment and raise the costs of such services. (Newsdesk)

America is not the only country to worry about this issue. Violations of the principle of network neutrality occur in the censorship of political, immoral or religious material around the world. (Wikipedia). Although net neutrality should be upheld, many of the countries that deny it already have laws in place against certain websites that break their laws. But there are cases in the U.S., such as in 2004, a small North Carolina telecom company, Madison River Communications, blocked their DSL customers from using the Vonage VoIP service. Service was restored after the FCC intervened and entered into a consent decree that had Madison River pay a fine of $15,000. (Wikipedia). The service provider overstepped its boundaries and paid for it. Without net neutrality, service providers can do exactly what Madison River Communications did, and deny you access to anything they choose.

Many politicians have heard the arguments of net neutrality and have decided to take a stand. It has become such an issue that one’s election may be decided on his or hers view of the policy. There have been many outcries to protect this Internet First Amendment. Thirty Senators have been tallied on being for protecting net neutrality, and fifteen are against it. Fifty-two are unknown on their stance, and 3 are undecided. The Save The Internet Coalition has reached over one million petitions and letters from the average American. (Save The Internet). The issue is clearly gaining momentum on Capitol Hill and pressure on many politicians.

In conclusion, the removal of net neutrality will benefit big business, but raise the costs of Internet service to the average citizen due to lack of competition, or cause somewhat of a monopoly. The Internet is one of the best tools to find information in a biased or unbiased way. Without neutrality, many sites that provide these services may be handicapped because of larger businesses that do not approve of them. If you want freedom of the Internet, support net neutrality.

I hope you are now well-informed about the FTC's decision. I'm scared to post anymore, your I.S.P. may block this obscene site because of this submission. We should rendezvous at our underground headquarters if we want to discuss this issue any further.

End Transmission.