Posted by Alex Zamenhof at 10:55 AM
Net neutrality is a system whereby large Internet companies, such as Verizon, are prohibited from using the identity of websites as a reason to charge them extra for access to their customers. For example, without net neutrality, a Verizon user might suddenly find that their Netflix cost goes up because Verizon is charging Netflix more for premium access to its customers. If we want our prices for the services we enjoy to remain static, net neutrality is a vital requirement.
According to the FCC, their authority to impose this regulation comes from the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Obama administration has shown strong support, while many congressional republicans are arguing that it represents unnecessary government involvement in private business. According to Verizon’s attorneys, if the rules were indeed overturned, Verizon would consider charging certain companies more for access to their users.
Almost everyone pays some sort of monthly bill for internet-related services: whether it’s “plain old Internet,” Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, HBO, or whatever else you could imagine. There’s likely a $9.99 or thereabouts charge showing up for your monthly indulgences in movies, TV, music, or other varieties of entertainment. If this FCC rule were to be overturned, and Verizon and other Internet providers could charge more for access to their users, these prices would all go up. Even access to Google from a Verizon server would start to cost Google more money – resulting, possibly, in a monthly charge just to use Google as we all do everyday. Granted, the charge may not seem like much – an extra dollar here and there – but in the grand scheme of things, it would hamper our access to these services. Say, for instance, that Comcast had a spat with Netflix and therefore, without the net neutrality rule, was able to simply deny their users access to the site. I have Comcast, and I also have Netflix; suddenly, because two massive companies are throwing down, I can’t get access to what I paid for? There is no world in which allowing the already insanely powerful Internet providers (Verizon, Comcast, XFinity, FiOs, etc.) to have even more of a stranglehold on which sites they allow their paying customers access to.
As long as the rule is still in place, the consumer is certain that they are able to have access to what they pay for, no matter which company they subscribe to, and no matter what lawsuits they may be involved in with one another. If that changes, Internet companies will start inching even more quickly towards monopoly – Netflix might decided to partner with Verizon, Hulu with Comcast, Spotify with RCN… imagine, if you wanted both Spotify and Netflix, you’d have to choose between two ISP providers! It is a ludicrous attempt by the big companies to gain even more control over the Internet then they already have, and as usual they are being aided and abetted by Republican congressmen who detest government interference with anything that is not strictly government. And yet, in an age where the Internet and the government are woven so closely together, might it not be the prerogative of the government to maintain some degree of control so that private corporations do not entirely swallow everything? I think so.