What Exactly is Net Neutrality?

Nancy Anderson
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Net neutrality is a hot-button phrase as activists try desperately to keep the Internet from falling into the hands of cable and phone companies. However, despite the fact that net neutrality is such an important part of Internet users’ daily lives, not everyone is aware of what net neutrality actually is.

The Internet is an ingrained part of most people’s day-to-day activities. Maybe you wake up, read Reddit while you make breakfast or drink your coffee, and then head to work—probably taking time every now and again to check and respond to emails or visit social media websites. Much more commonly, your work is on the Internet, making it especially important that customers and clients have access to the website with which you work.

Now, imagine a world in which your clients and customers have to pay extra to visit your site in a timely manner—or worse, your company has to pay an extra fee in order to give customers premium connections to your data. Services such as Netflix and Hulu are already paying cable companies a premium in order to give consumers watchable streams and access to their online libraries. What if companies could suddenly force your company and customers to pay that premium, as well?

That’s where net neutrality comes in. Net neutrality is the idea that everyone should have equal and unabated access to all portions of the Internet (like Netflix and Hulu). Companies such as Comcast and Time Warner are seeking to end net neutrality because of the earnings they see in forcing people to pay for “fast lanes” on the Internet. People who pay for “fast lanes” will have stronger connections than others who may only pay for a basic Internet package. For instance, a customer who pays twice as much as another customer for a premium Internet package may have access to services like Netflix and Hulu, whereas the basic Internet package may download a site's data and stream video at an incredibly slow rate.

President Obama urged the FCC to consider the Internet as a public utility, much like water and electricity. Under this act, cable and phone companies won’t be able to act as the gatekeepers, meaning that everyone has equal access to all portions of the Internet without being restricted by often ghastly service.

Net neutrality is a vital part of the way of life in 2014; people are beginning to make shopping online their way of life, and schools are even beginning to upload homework and hold classes online. Companies such as Comcast and Time Warner look to end net neutrality so that people who don’t want to pay a premium for Internet connectivity will only have restricted Internet access.


Image courtesy of Jospeh Gruber on Flickr.com



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    I don't think we can get away with the government staying out of this. As much as I would prefer they stay out, I have to agree with @Bruce. This will certainly be a "freedom of speech" issue and will be fought in the courts for quite some time.

  • Bruce Walters
    Bruce Walters

    when do we start calling this what it is? (extortion)
    To paraphrase the Prez: Comcast did not build the internet.
    We taxpayers did, Comcast makes money from it and to be fair, they do provide the "last mile" connection [that was already their for other purposes]. To Ben's point, the only "regulation" I want to see coming out of this is an otherwise hands off "there shall be no throttling" enforcement by the FCC.

  • Ben Vecchio
    Ben Vecchio

    Really, Paul? Big Government is going to fix that? You need to expand your horizons.

  • Paul W.
    Paul W.

    Really, Ben? Sounds like you work for Comcast! Do you even know what net neutrality is? The main idea is that all information is treated EQUALLY; free, open and fair. It prevents companies such as Comcast from discriminating against various type of web traffic when it fits their business needs. And guess what, Comcast did this against Netflix, demanding millions more, or they would slow down the internet speeds of customers. The Internet, from it's inception, was designed to be free, and not sold to the highest bidder for control and manipulation. Do you seriously believe that Comcast/Time Warner believe in competition and the free market? Can you actually say that with a straight face? Explain why US customers have the slowest speeds when compared to countries such as S. Korea, and Europe.

  • Ben Vecchio
    Ben Vecchio

    So we are going to trust the fate of the internet to the great job big government does? There goes innovation, out the window. I would not like to see those who brought us the ACA, IRS scandal, unconstitutional domestic spying, and so on, get their hands on regulating the internet. Competition and the free market will keep the internet remaining fast and free, not big brother.

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