The issue of net neutrality is a hot topic in the United States, but not many people actually know what it is and how it affects their day-to-day routine. This is certainly an important topic that shouldn’t be ignored, as it might very well affect all end users.
If you think that net neutrality might not affect you, ask yourself, “do I use the Internet?” and “how much do I use it for?” If the answer to the first question is, “yes,” then it doesn’t matter what your answer to the second question is. If you use the Internet, net neutrality will have an impact on your life. Period.
What is Net Neutrality?
What net neutrality all comes down to is Internet freedom and the value of traffic. All Internet traffic is the same to believers of net neutrality, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from or where it goes afterward. Another huge component of net neutrality is the ability for users to access any sites regardless of their Internet service provider (ISP), without them discriminating against the user with limited access or service quality from data sources or Internet traffic.
Last month, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to open the net neutrality public debate concerning what rules “define” net neutrality, specifically. Citizens will have until July 15, 2014 to submit initial comments about the proposal, and then have until September 10th to submit comments in response to the initial debates.
What Happens if Net Neutrality Fails?
Net neutrality is an important step toward making sure that the Internet remains open to all of those who wish to use it. With the advent of ebooks and enewsletters, much of the world’s literature can be found digitally while many industries are cutting back on printed publication. If the end of net neutrality means exclusive access to particular important documents, news, and public information, what happens to the ISP industry in response? A monopoly will ensue, and before we know it, services won’t be available to those who aren’t using the services provided by a particular company.
This is already happening with Time Warner Cable and Comcast, who have suggested a partnership. In conjunction with the Comcast-NBC Universal merger which took place in 2009, there would be a massive entertainment juggernaut paired with an Internet service provider, effectively controlling who has access to all of the movies Universal produces. It’s not difficult to imagine Comcast advertising to their customers with NBC video content exclusive to them.
This provides unnatural attraction toward Comcast’s Internet flow, and could significantly impact the way that company’s use the Internet and access entertainment services like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. Big companies with big budgets will have much more Internet speed than smaller companies, and will ultimately beat them out in the digital race. These startups won’t be able to contribute their amazing ideas to the Internet, and will be lagging behind or lost completely.
Here’s Why It’s Bad for Business
Imagine being a small business that relies on the Internet. If the proposed system goes through, there could be a day in the near future where customers are restricted from visiting a company’s site based on how much money they fork over to their ISP. Americans could see a tiered Internet plan that only gives users access to a limited slice of the Internet, limiting their ability to find businesses, read blogs, and operate the way that benefits all of the “little guys.” Whether they lock down sites for users who don’t pay a premium, or they drastically limit monthly bandwidth caps, it’s going to be a bad situation for everybody but them.
What Can You Do to Stop This?
For American small business owners, the end of net neutrality could threaten their business and way of life. It’s not out of the question for big companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable to knock the smaller providers out of the game completely, and the same could happen to you if net neutrality fails. Do you want ISPs to have this kind of power over the future of your business?
Obviously, you don’t. You need to get involved in this debate, as it concerns not only you, but the worldwide Internet community. Write to your local congressmen or the FCC and let them know what your stance on the issue is. In times of great peril, the American people have been known to unite, and this should be one of those times. Don’t let monopolies take away your business’s rights to a “free” Internet – stand up for your rights!