The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By James Shipman
Valley County Voices 

Net Neutrality, Why It Matters

 

December 6, 2017



The internet as we know it is in danger. Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC and former lawyer for Verizon, seeks to end net neutrality regulations. On Dec. 14, the FCC will vote on Ajit Pai’s proposal to end rules classifying the internet as a utility. However, many of Americans are unaware of these regulations and how they benefit from them. If we intend to keep the internet as it is, we must first know what net neutrality even is. We must know the main argument against net neutrality and most importantly, why it is important.

Net neutrality, or open internet, is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should give consumers access to all legal content on an equal basis without favoring sources or blocking others. Essentially, it is the internet as we have always known it to be. The internet is vital to our current infrastructure and to prevent abuse, the government currently classifies the internet as a utility. Being a utility, the internet is treated the same as our phones and water, free to transmit resources without interference from the government or corporations. This has allowed the internet to flourish. Without this classification and regulation, ISPs would be allowed to throttle speeds to certain websites and sources. A “toll” could be charged for faster speeds, while actively slowing those who can’t pay. Corporations like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have a lot to gain from this repeal.

The main argument for the repeal is to encourage innovation and investment. ISPs claim that these regulations stifle their ability to benefit consumers and harms small ISPs. But, many of the available ISPs are already owned by large corporations, with coverage over the majority of Americans. Large mergers have consolidated most of the ISPs into a handful of companies. Under current regulations, these corporations have seen steady growth and profits. The real goal is a monopoly on the internet to squeeze a higher profit at the expense of the consumer. With unparalleled influence on the internet, corporations would be free to censor whatever they like. ISPs could cut out competitors and small businesses that rely on the internet by actively slowing their connection. Slower speeds would mean overall less traffic, which leads to less revenue. Companies like Amazon and Netflix would likely pass that burden onto their consumers, effectively raising rates. Corporate media would dominate the market, leaving little room for any objective media or journalism. This monopoly on information leads to less choice for Americans and more money for the ISPs.

The internet is now a vital part of American society. According to a recent poll on net neutrality, 75 percent of the American people believe the internet is essential. We use it for commerce, communication, education, and entertainment. We rely on the security of an open internet. Free to view any and all legal content without ISPs deciding which websites we can go to. Corporations should not be given the ability to censor the internet for the sake of profits. Every American citizen and business will be impacted by the repeal. ISPs will be given the power to charge businesses and consumers for an internet “fast lane,” effectively limiting a business’s ability to reach consumers and a citizen’s ability to choose.

For decades, we have enjoyed many freedoms on the internet which are now at risk. With the internet being a utility, it has allowed free expression and free trade to flourish. Small businesses can now reach a much wider audience and the voices of the people are much louder. ISPs want to take that away just so they can charge more. They claim they need more investments, even though steady profits have led to giant mergers. We must defend the internet from corporate greed. The internet must remain as it is, open. The 21st century economy relies on the internet and a level playing field is the only way small business can stay competitive and flourish. Don’t just sit by and let this happen. Call the offices of Greg Gianforte and Jon Tester. Demand they stand by the people of Montana and other pressure on the FCC to do what is right.

 

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