Net Neutrality: Debates Made Simple

Over the past few years the phrase ‘net neutrality’ has become a media buzzword. Countless interviews, discussions and articles constantly employ the phrase when talking about its effects on the internet. Yet oftentimes these reports use technical jargon or unnecessarily complicate the issue for the average person. For those that have struggled to understand just what net neutrality or an open internet is, here are 3 simplified main points.

  photo credit: keloland.com

photo credit: keloland.com

1. What is it?

                Simply put, net neutrality is the idea that all website traffic should be treated equally. No matter how popular or unpopular a site is, they should each be granted equal speeds and opportunity. For example, a website that hasn’t been updated in years should still receive them same availability and speed as an incredibly popular website like Netflix. Regardless of size or popularity, all internet traffic should be granted equal opportunity.

2. How does it work?                                                                                

                Net neutrality blocks internet service providers (ISPs) from being able to pick and choose what speeds a website gets access to and the prices people pay for that access. The best way to understand this would be to think of the internet as a highway. The ISPs want to divide the internet up into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”. In California, in order to avoid some of their famous traffic drivers can pay a toll fee to use an “express lane”. ISPs want the internet to work in a similar fashion. If you want the fastest speeds as a consumer or business, ISPs make you pay extra in order to use their “express lane”. Those businesses or consumers unable to pay the extra fee will be stuck in traffic while those that paid go speeding by.

 

  photo credit: ACLU.com

photo credit: ACLU.com

3. What are the effects of overturning net neutrality?

                If ISPs get their way and net neutrality is ever abolished, it would have a severely negative effect on both businesses and consumers. If ISPs gain the control they seek, young entrepreneurial websites will find it even more difficult to succeed than in the past. Many developing startups will be crushed by the potentially extortionist fees needed to obtain an equal playing field with bigger companies. Net neutrality will only widen the gap between small business and large corporations.

In June 2016, net neutrality was once again protected by the FCC. However with a change in government on the horizon, net neutrality may soon become a hot button issue and one small business and non-profits must be aware of.