The Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of new and stronger net neutrality rules to regulate Internet access on Thursday Feb. 26. This regulation will allow the Internet to continue to be the driving creative and economic force that it has been for the past 20 years. Former “Daily Show” correspondent and current host of “Last Week Tonight” John Oliver tackled net neutrality on air last June. While Oliver did follow form in cracking jokes, he also made a call to action. After explaining the importance of net neutrality Oliver provided viewers with a link to send comments directly to the FCC.
The FCC received over 3 million comments within a matter of days about an upcoming net neutrality ruling, crashing its website. The FCC is directed by four commissioners and one chairman—appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate—allowing the public to make declarations in favor of or against an upcoming decision is important for democracy.
Net neutrality is a topic that only just recently gained attention, meaning many people do not know what it means or what it is.
What net neutrality stands for is equality––all traffic should be given the same priority regardless of its source or content. Applications and websites should not be discriminated against because they use more bandwidth or support viewpoints divergent from those of the Internet service providers that deliver the content.
One of America’s largest ISP’s is Comcast, a conglomerate corporation with holdings and ownerships of many companies including NBC Universal. Without these rules, Comcast could legally reduce the quality of streams coming from Netflix, FOX, ABC, CBS or any other source of competitive programming. As sites like Netflix begin to create their own content and provide alternatives, it is important that we protect them.
Paid prioritization––commonly known as fast lanes––is the antithesis of a competitive marketplace. Think about some of your favorite websites like Facebook or Vimeo. These types of websites started with little to no money and grew on the backs of hard workers, eventually becoming websites people wanted to use. If these websites were hamstrung by bandwidth limits, they would have never gotten off the ground.
As a high quality video platform, Vimeo requires a lot of bandwidth. Without regulation, ISP’s can force sites like it to pay a premium for that bandwidth. Just because a product might require more resources doesn’t mean that it can generate more money. Increasing rates on sites like these is unfair.
Many opponents of the recent net neutrality ruling have conjured specters of more taxes and censorship. These rules have nothing to do with content, but with the delivery mechanisms of the Internet. The content of the Internet should remain as free and open as ever.
The Internet on its own isn’t important. What gives the Internet value is all the content that people produce and publish on it. We need higher speeds not because bigger numbers are better, but because they increase the quality of the content being served and allow for greater innovation.
The Internet itself has not driven a boom in creativity or massive economic growth; the people who use it have. Net neutrality is key to protecting those content creators and all Americans who use the Internet.