What is Net Neutrality, and Why Should I Care?

anigifToday, sites across the web are taking a stand against cable giants like AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Verizon, who are actively working to undo one of the guiding principals of the free and open internet, known as Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the belief that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must provide the same service to everyone, and should not block or throttle traffic based on the application or content you are trying to access.

Just like your phone company can’t decide who you can and can’t call, or what you say on that call, Net Neutrality is the belief that your ISP should not be able to decide what sites or applications you’re able to access while using their service.

Net Neutrality is a driving force in online innovation; it creates a level playing field in which every application, service, or website (like the Post) has an equal chance to reach customers and succeed.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would have the right to implement pay-to-play internet access, which would discriminate against startups and small businesses online.

Imagine the 405 Freeway suddenly being reconfigured to have three FastTrack lanes and only one slow lane. Additionally, only businesses that can pay massive fees get to have an exit off of the FastTrack lanes—all of the smaller businesses only get an exit off of the one clogged, congested, now barely-usable slow lane.

This is a good approximation of what the internet would be like without Net Neutrality. Not only would your ISP have the right to discriminate against online businesses that can’t afford to be accessible from the fast lane, they would also reserve the right to charge you, the consumer, more to be allowed to ride in the fast lane.

This may sound alarmist, but on May 15, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new set of rules that would permit exactly this, completely undermining Net Neutrality.

Under the proposed rules, cable giants would have the right to create a two-tiered Internet, with slow lanes (for most of us) and fast lanes (for wealthy corporations that are willing to pay fees in exchange for faster service).

Not only that, but the cable companies would have the power to discriminate against online content and applications—they could pick winners and losers, shake sites down for additional fees, block content for political reasons, make it harder to view content owned by independent companies, and make it easier for Internet users to view content owned by the cable companies themselves. Obviously, this makes this issue particularly important to small, independently owned businesses such as the Post.

After the public’s overwhelmingly negative reaction to the FCC’s proposal, one method of recourse was left open to protect the free and open internet. Reclassifying broadband internet access as telecommunications under the “common carrier” rules that govern phone service and other utilities, as outlined in Title II of the Communications Act, would subject ISPs to the type of FCC anti-blocking and anti-discrimination regulation they are currently exempt from.

Over 4 million people—and some of the largest internet businesses in the world, such as Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, WordPress and Twitter—have already spoken out in support of Net Neutrality.

Click here to tell lawmakers to protect Net Neutrality, and reclassify broadband internet as a common carrier service.

The future of the internet depends on it.

Thanks for reading,

Dennis Dean
Director of Operations
Long Beach Post

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