The FCC has given Internet users an open forum to express their views on proposed Net Neutrality policies. This is great, as it provides more transparency in the policy-making process and allows at least some form of discussion to take place between the FCC and the people it will be affecting.
Net neutrality would prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain websites or types of data. Supporters of the policy say this is essential to maintaining a freely accessible Internet, while opponents maintain that the government should play no role in regulating Internet service providers.
If the FCC forum is any indication, Internet users are clearly in favor of the proposed policy. And why shouldn’t they be? Americans depend on unencumbered access to the Internet, so it makes perfect sense to protect it. Of the last 140 forum posts written, only 13 were against net neutrality and positively reviewed, while 58 posts were in favor of net neutrality and positively reviewed. Additionally, the posts in favor of net neutrality had far more thumbs up than those against.
Without net neutrality in place, your Internet provider is free to charge you extra for YouTube, Wikipedia, facebook, or whatever else they think they can get away with. They’re also free to slow down or stop downloads via any protocol they want–whether it’s BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP or anything else. If they wanted, they could even get political and block access to Fox News, Air America, voter registration sites, or information about political candidates. If this all sounds far fetched to you, it shouldn’t–nearly all the major ISPs have done it already.
Net neutrality would protect Internet users from this type of abuse the same way that users of the phone system are protected against their calls being blocked at the whim of the phone company. However, there are some who disagree with the policy, so let me sum up the arguments of the few net neutrality opponents I was able to find on the FCC forum.
Basically, they’re afraid the government is trying to monitor and control Internet access in much the same way that China does. These opponents either don’t understand the policy being proposed by the FCC or they think that this policy will pave the way for more government intervention in the future. Neither of these fears are substantiated. The current net neutrality proposal doesn’t include anything about the government blocking Internet access in any way. In fact, it is written specifically to prevent this type of behavior. So to think that this policy will allow the government to control the Internet, either now or in the future, is absurd. If that were to happen, the US government would face insurmountable pressure not only from the American people, but from several major technology corporations (like Google, for example) and The United Nations as well. It just wouldn’t happen, and net neutrality would only help to ensure that.
There is another argument against net neutrality, which for some reason doesn’t show up very often on the FCC’s forum. It’s the original argument from the Internet service providers, which basically says they can no longer support the bandwidth requirements of today’s Internet users. It seems to make a lot more sense than the previous argument, but it’s actually just as ridiculous. One of the users on the FCC’s forum addresses this issue well. He describes our current Internet infrastructure as a set of dirt roads, “The issue is not that there is too much traffic on the Internet. The issue is that in order for everybody to benefit, this ‘highway’ must be expanded. Instead of enforcing tiered access, we should expand its infrastructure to support the new load”. He goes on to compare our Internet infrastructure to that of Japan’s and Korea’s, “Japan has an information superhighway.. we have an information dirt-road, with people threatening to place tollbooths”.