On July 12th, thousands of websites around the world took part in a protest to bring attention to net neutrality. Net neutrality is a set of laws and ideas that revolve around protecting the internet in a number of different ways:
- Net neutrality laws prohibit ISPs (internet service providers) from throttling (slowing down) access to individual sites
- Net neutrality laws further prohibit ISPs from blocking (legal) websites to prevent “pay for play” access schemes
We all benefit from an internet that allows users to exchange information freely. If net neutrality rules are rolled back, as Trump administration FCC Chair Ajit Pai intends, ISPs could restrict the internet on a level never seen before in the US. The move would effectively create classes of internet citizens, where only the richest among us could enjoy a robust internet diet of YouTube, memes, and content diversity.
The consequences of losing net neutrality
The principal idea of net neutrality is that everyone and everything on the internet is equal. This isn’t intended to demonetize platforms that provide services, but instead promote creativity, education, entertainment, and access to websites that allow their content to be enjoyed for free. without net neutrality, even free websites could cost – and creators wouldn’t even get a share.
President Trump is on the right track reducing regulations – but regulations that protect freedom in the sacred realm of the internet should not be trifled with. Because everyone has to use an ISP to get online, and the ISPs know we have nowhere else to turn, we have very little control over the service we get. We’re, for the most part, at the mercy of the ISPs. Net neutrality laws keep them at a healthy arm’s length – where they belong.
There’s more than just memes and funny videos at risk here. The internet is increasingly a more critical part of all our lives. We need to work together to create rules governing it moving forward that benefits everyone using the technology. A super majority of the greatest inventions of this century will, no doubt, all use the internet in some way to materialize their projects – from medical breakthroughs to next level amazing games. We owe it to creators and consumers everywhere to keep this place as fair as possible for competition and success.
For those against regulation: I don’t think net neutrality actually falls into a traditional category of red tape regulation (unless you count great laws like the US’ First and Second Amendments as regulations). It isn’t 10 binders full of fifty pounds of pointless paperwork to build a 10 foot road segment. Net neutrality is a protection. Like the right to bear arms, the right to an open internet is a tool for growing freedom around the world – and keeping it here at home. Where else can you criticize your government more effectively than online? Yes, in person protests help, but what good does it do if no one sees it? Impact and reach matters and makes a difference.
The internet is a place for fun, leisure, learning, growing – a place to challenge your ideas (or refuse to hear other people’s arguments) and make global connections. For companies big and small, the internet allows them to reach their customers in ways that make their products’ better. It’s a place where you can order three different kinds of Han Solo action figures or lookup how to do neat dance moves (I just make up my own – I’m a great dancer… not). Whatever the internet is to you – it’s surely worth defending.
On this special occasion, I encourage US readers to click here and join the fight to keep the internet open for truly fair competition. The free market means everyone gets an equal shake and the best man wins. No matter where you stand in the political spectrum, net neutrality is something we can all agree on. Let’s get it done. Let’s save the internet!