Imagine that you make a call to your favorite pizza delivery company to order a pizza. Now, imagine that the telephone company makes that call difficult through a bad connection. So, your call to your favorite pizza place is often dropped, or its hard to hear them, or they can’t hear you, or sometimes the call just won’t go through. So, you stop ordering from them and order from another pizza place. When you call the other place, the phone works just fine.
Now, imagine the phone company does that on purpose because it has a deal with the other pizza company to pay more to make their calls better. For money, the phone company makes one phone call better than another.
In the United States, they can’t do that. The telephone company is considered a “common carrier”, so discriminating between users is illegal. Every phone call is treated the same.
Let’s try again.
This time, imagine the same thing, only instead of using the telephone to order your pizza, you are ordering it over the Internet. When you try, you find that the website for your pizza place loads very slowly, so slowly that eventually you just give up. Instead, you go to the website of another pizza company and it loads fine, so you order from that one. Now imagine that your favorite pizza company’s website loads slowly because your cable provider made a deal with the other pizza company to block its competitors and let only the other pizza company’s website load fast.
Net neutrality is the concept that this shouldn’t be allowed. Instead, the Internet should be treated just like a common carrier, like the phone company. Service providers should not be allowed to favor one website over another, except for limited legitimate reasons.
Some people agree with this concept and some do not. Right now, the head of the FCC (Ajit Pai) does not, and he is trying to change the rules for the Internet so that Internet providers can favor one pizza company over the other, or decide not to allow access to one pizza company at all.
And it’s not just pizza companies. It could apply to any organization or person, anywhere, for any reason. For instance, if a cable provider does not like a religious point of view, it could slow down that church’s website or even refuse to allow access to that website. If the Internet provider is planning to offer services itself – such as streaming movies – it could slow down competitors streaming movies to encourage you to use its own movie service.
Or, if a cable provider supports on political candidate or political position, it could slow down or block information about the other candidate or position.
The Internet is such a fundamental part of our lives today, in a free and open democracy, that we cannot allow cable providers – large corporations – to control our access to information, making choices for us. Instead, it should allow the marketplace of ideas to compete on a level playing field.
If you want to learn more about net neutrality and/or take action, here are some links:
John Oliver on Net Neutrality: https://youtu.be/92vuuZt7wak
Electronic Frontier Foundation: https://www.eff.org/issues/net-neutrality
ACLU on Net Neutrality: https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/internet-speech/what-net-neutrality
Wikipedia on Net Neutrality: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality
Netflix on Net Neutrality (Forbes Magazine): http://fortune.com/2017/06/15/netflix-net-neutrality-fcc/
Google on Net Neutrality (TAKE ACTION): https://www.google.com/takeaction/action/freeandopen/index.html