What Is Net Neutrality and What Does It Mean for Me?
On February 26, 2015, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a historic move by approving new Net Neutrality rules that will ensure the Internet stays open and free. The issue of Net Neutrality has been a longtime debate between the government, Internet service providers (ISPs) and the people who use the internet.
Although most people have heard buzz around the topic, many don’t know the meaning of what exactly net neutrality is and what impact it has on society once fully implemented.
Net Neutrality Defined
Net neutrality, in essence, is the concept that all content and applications via online connection should be equally accessible to everyone and anyone. In order to keep the internet open and “neutral” to the public, net neutrality means internet service providers must not block certain information or infringe upon speed of access /connection. Regulations are set on network carriers to enforce said intentions. All of these components, from neutralizing accessibility to implementation of policies, are what encompass the principle of net neutrality.
Designed to Protect Users
The internet user is ultimately protected when net neutrality is in place. Protection here implies freedom in multiple senses. Without net neutrality, fast and slow lanes could be formed. This is where applications, websites, companies and/or political parties essentially pay to prioritize their data through short cuts and quicker connecting routes to users, and in result, gain an advantage over other organizations that may not have the funds to pay their way to the top.
Preferential treatment to larger corporations might come easier due to financial backings available and smaller enterprises consequentially suffer. Net neutrality levels the playing field for businesses, large and small, which provides a more fruitful breeding ground for competition and innovation to thrive.
Big cable TV and Internet companies have long been controlling the gates to the internet, but with net neutrality the consumer can finally achieve self-determination. Customers are frequently charged money for online usage with extra costs imposed on those who want additional access (e.g., faster connection).
As the Internet plays an increasingly important and necessary role in everyday life, the notion of even having to pay to play in a world that requires it has caused uproar. Net neutrality prevents the discrimination between social and economic classes and their ability to afford an integral tool needed to function in society.
Protecting Freedom of Speech
For the common man and woman, the most important aspect of net neutrality is probably that it is an underlying support system for freedom of speech. Neutrality rules lift any censorship from the public, creating an open platform for users to explore whatever websites and information they choose, at any time, and with the same accessibility rights as others. It paves the way for free thinking and freedom of choice.
Although the FCC’s vote for net neutrality was a watershed moment for Internet activism, the battle is not yet won. Broadband providers will most certainly take the case up in court to stop execution and Internet participants will fight the good fight to see net neutrality succeed. Whatever the case may be, the decision is a significant victory for the almighty Internet and a major step forward in sustaining its integrity for the betterment of citizens across the globe.
– By Tim Alan