The Gustavian Weekly

Net Neutrality Upheld! | The Gustavian Weekly

By Cameron MacDonald Opinion Editor | March 13, 2015 | Opinion

The internet has been declared a public utility and everyone should have a right to access it.

The internet has been declared a public utility and everyone should have a right to access it.

The issue of net neutrality has been an ongoing issue for a long time, but people seem to forget about it, at least people around our age. It was frightening because this was going to affect everyone in the United States and how the internet was used in the future. The existence of net neutrality is the cornerstone of freedom on the internet and world-wide web.

Net neutrality refers to keeping the internet a free and open platform for anyone to use and not for companies to control. Time Warner and Comcast had felt differently.

They decided that they wanted to own the connection speeds for the internet in the United States. They would have provided a miniscule speed for consumers and then charged premiums for faster speeds. Internet would have been throttled everywhere and the average consumer would have had slower speeds than are currently available.

They also would have had the ability to block certain content-makers and offer priority to those who were willing to pay more money. Comcast has threatened to throttle Netflix’s bandwidth in the past, and it would have been easy and completely legal with the legislation they were trying to put through.

The dispute had been going on for a long while, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) going back and forth on the issue. One of the FCC heads was actually a former member of Comcast and, of course, was for Comcast’s restrictive internet policies.

Those for net neutrality argued that the internet has become something we all have a right to access, as it has become the main communication and information hub of the world. Those that opposed net neutrality argued that the competition between companies would benefit the consumers. Funny enough, companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Google and Twitter were supporters of net neutrality.

When the vote passed for net neutrality, the FCC had to change a few things around. First of all, they reclassified broadband as a “common carrier” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, making Internet service a regulated utility, similar to water or electricity. Mobile service for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are also being placed under these new policies. The new directive also requires the protection of consumer privacy and service must be available for people with disabilities and people who live in remote areas.

This is a great achievement for the United States, but also one that should not have had to be debated. Unfortunately, the internet service provider companies have quite a bit of money, and subsequently have quite a bit of political pull. Net neutrality is a simple concept – equal opportunity on the internet, and no one internet service provider having control over content – yet we had to bring it up as  a policy and it was debated heavily. It only won by a 3-to-2 partisan vote. This was an argument over something that had a pretty clear-cut answer. Either freedom of internet, or competition between companies and customers get bled dry. The FCC made the right decision, but hopefully we’ll avoid problems like this in the future.

-Cameron MacDonald