Net neutrality keeps Web monopoly from passing go
Jan. 14 was scary for anyone who uses the Internet, which in this day and age is all of us. The events of this day ripped through the Internet like shots fired. Now, many are huddled and awaiting what will come next: a battle to maintain what the Internet is or massive changes to its identity.
On Jan. 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gutted the Federal Communications Commission’s open Internet rules in the decision of FCC v. Verizon. This move threatened the hope of net neutrality, which prevents Internet service providers from controlling people’s access to websites.
The ruling is the latest in a nearly decade-long battle between the FCC and organizations pushing for an open Internet, along with Internet service providers that want more control over the data traveling through their systems.
In 2008, Comcast was punished by the FCC for slowing traffic of customers using peer-to-peer networking applications like uTorrent. Comcast appealed the FCC’s attempt at forcing net neutrality, and won a case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court determined that the FCC did not have the power to make ISPs comply with net neutrality, prompting the FCC to adopt the open Internet rules in 2010, which attempted to take away ISPs’ control over online content. Verizon challenged these rules almost immediately after their passage.
With Verizon’s win more than a week ago, ISPs can effectively pick and choose how they treat traffic by slowing or even blocking traffic to websites and applications.
According to CNET writer Marguerite Reardon, the Internet could become a very different and much more expensive place with net neutrality under siege.
“Your broadband service provider could establish a service in which Gold customers pay more and are guaranteed a certain quality of service over Silver or Bronze customers,” she said.
Unless net neutrality laws are strengthened soon, we may see an Internet made by the wealthy, for the wealthy, as only the rich will be able to afford the least-restricted Internet access. This is especially troubling since we live in a time where full Internet access has become vital at all levels of society, reaching into all corners of our lives.
Additionally, Reardon points out how this new Internet could become one where companies need to pay for access.
“The ruling opens the door for broadband and backbone internet providers to develop new lines of business, such as charging internet content companies, like Netflix, Amazon, or Google, access fees to their networks,” Reardon writes.
If ISPs begin charging companies access fees, it is possible that those costs may be passed onto us, with the products we buy on Amazon becoming more expensive or Netflix subscription prices rising.
Reardon goes on to state that without Net neutrality, the Internet may no longer be friendly to small companies or start-ups that can’t afford to pay these new fees.
According to Brian Patrick Eha, assistant editor of entrepreneur.com, on average 514,000 new businesses were created each month in 2012. Many of those businesses rely on having a presence online, where some could potentially become the next Spotify or Netflix.
However, if ISPs begin charging companies for priority access, many startups will fail and innovation will be stifled.
What, then, do we do? We need to pay attention and recognize the importance of the Internet in our lives. The Internet is in our backpacks, in our pockets and on our desks. It’s our movie theater, our game room and our hangout.
The ruling last week puts all of that in jeopardy, and if we want to keep the Internet free and open, we need to defend it and prevent it from becoming a land of monopolies that only the rich can take advantage of.
Eric Klump is a senior studying journalism and communications. Follow him @ericklump.