A Fight for a Free World
Imagine you have homework you research for, or you need to write a business proposal or prep materials for a meeting, You conduct an online search, but you’re redirected to a page totally different from what you searched for, or you see an error message like, “You do not have to access this content.”
You find out later that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn’t approve of that subject matter, so they restricted access or throttled browser speeds
Now, imagine also, that the next day, you went online to order a new toaster in your favorite online store, but the site loads so slowly you give up, out of frustration. Meanwhile, the sidebar advertises the same toaster at a different website. You learn later on another online store paid money to your ISP to throttle the bandwidth of your favorite online shop.
Surely this isn’t possible. Is it?
It’s certainly possible. Interests on both sides of the argument for and against net neutrality have been debating this for years. Every time it seems that a free democracy has won out, the fight is back on.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that there must be no discrimination by internet service providers and governments regulating the internet, and that all data and traffic must be treated equally. Net neutrality means the imagined scenarios at the start of this article stay limited to our imaginations.
You might also say: “Hey this is just a conspiracy theory.” Or, “has any Internet Service Provider really done this?” Well, if no Internet Service Provider has done this, there would be no point having this discussion, would there? This example will suffice: It was discovered that Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high speed internet subscribers to share files online which is against the tradition of internet neutrality. Falsifying network traffic by making two communicating PCs to receive messages from each other asking each to stop communicating. The above is just one example, imagine how common this will become if it becomes legal. Yes, you heard right, it could become legal.
(This example and more are included in this column on this site)
The current debate is prompted by the move by the present F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai to compromise net neutrality in the United States. If this goes through, it means bye-bye to a free internet. It means the following:
Sites you visit regularly may slow down. If the net neutrality bill is passed, your ISP would be able to slow down the loading speed of your favorite media for a number of reasons. Maybe the site wouldn’t pay a fee for faster speeds, or maybe the site is in direct competition with your ISP.
Remember the Internet as we know it does not have any form of preferential treatment, but if this bill is passed, it will be perfectly legal for ISPs to charge additional rates. They would have the ability to speed up or slow things down in websites, depending on the amount of money these websites are able or willing to pay. Users may end up paying more for the same service, or even less service. For example, Facebook pays to assure that its users continue to enjoy fast Internet, but then the users might have to also pay an additional fee to take advantage of that high speed.
Keep in mind that wherever possible users bear the expense or the penalty. Corporations will pass the expense on to users, or users will have slower connections.
This also means that companies with less capital can be edged out by larger competition. This seems bad enough when it comes to commerce. Wal-Mart will do to Etsy what it has done to mom-and-pop stores nationwide. But what if this means independent news media blogs have to compete with Fox or MSNBC?
What if an independent media outlet publishes scathing articles about Comcast? Comcast can easily throttle their bandwidth to the point that nobody sees that content.
Giving ISPs the authority to regulate contents will also mean that some contents will simply disappear. ISPs will have the authority to remove any content they’re not comfortable with. One could easily imagine the Trump administration demanding punitive actions be taken against “fake news.”
Imagine a situation where an ISP is paid by one aspiring congressman to throttle online campaigns uploaded by his opponent. This might sound outrageous, but it is a danger we will be facing if active control of internet content and traffic by ISPs become legal. Every business is first and foremost for profit, this in effect means that the best service is given to the highest bidder, therefore the politician who pays more, gets the best internet service.
The above are just few of the grim possibilities that will face us if by any chance, the neutrality of the internet is compromised. We should not bury our head in the sand and pretend like the proverbial ostrich that nothing is happening, but arise and battle this danger that threatens our freedom with whatever force we have at our disposal. This danger to the free world.
-  Honan, Matthew (12 February 2008). “Inside Net Neutrality: Is your ISP filtering content? Macworld. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
-  Peter Svensson (19 October 2007). “Comcast Blocks some Subscriber Internet Traffic, AP Testing shows” MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
-  The Editorial Board (29 April 2017). “F.C.C. Invokes Internet Freedom While Trying to Kill It.” New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2017.