Now, you may be thinking, “The laws governing how the United States uses the Internet will surely only affect America. The rest of the world shouldn’t be concerned.” Keep in mind that the Internet connects the global community, and if the citizens of the U.S. are hindered from connecting and contributing to this community, then the whole world will feel the effects of these new regulations–which are currently being considered by U.S. lawmakers.
What is Net Neutrality?
These new regulations regarding net neutrality are essentially an assault on the free sharing of ideas over the Internet. Currently, the Internet content in America is distributed neutrally (thus the term “net neutrality”), which means that everything posted on the Internet gets a fair shake at finding an audience. You can think of it like every news story, big and small, no matter the source, gets a chance to start at the same starting line in the race to be seen.
What’s being proposed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by ISP companies (the businesses responsible for delivering Internet service), is permission to provide a tiered Internet service plan. The proposed plan will allow users to pay ISPs a premium for delivering their content to audiences more quickly. In the race to find an audience, it’s like a company can bribe the ISP to get a head start.
Why it’s Important to Keep the Net Neutral
Essentially, this will turn the Internet into a “pay to play” situation. Corporations with deep pockets will easily be able to pay the premium to get their content released first, giving them a hugely unfair advantage over the little guys trying to be heard. In fact, if a major corporation happens to deem an independent startup to be a threat, they can potentially pay extra to have their competitor’s message squashed. This new idea totally flies in the face of the entrepreneurial spirit which has allowed so many small startup companies to fairly find success in highly competitive markets.
Obviously, this is a big money grab by major Internet providers like ComCast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, and they’ve got the giant corporations on their side–especially if these new regulations will give corporations the ability to make it harder for small startups to grow. This much money on the table is a recipe for disaster when mixed with politicians and the freedoms of the little guy.
Net Neutrality isn’t Dead Yet!
Thankfully, these new and egregious regulations have yet to be passed. Actually, before these new laws can be passed, the FCC has first agreed to hear from the public on this hot-button issue. U.S. citizens have until July 15th to submit their comments about net neutrality. These points will then be considered in an initial round of debates. The public will then have a chance to respond to the initial debate with additional comments that must be submitted by September 10th. Hopefully the outrage of the American people will be louder than the corporate dollars being funneled into Washington D.C. via lobbyists.
You don’t want to sit on the sidelines for this issue. If this goes through, it will have negative ramifications for how you consume data that’s important to you, like news and entertainment, as well as how your small business gets its message out. What are your feelings about net neutrality? Share them with us in the comments!