Network neutrality, known more commonly as Internet (or net) neutrality, is the idea that the internet should be an equal playing ground for everyone on it. What this means is that the traffic and speed to your blog about how to make really good cupcakes gets treated the same way as the traffic to AOL, CNN or Fox News – Internet service providers (ISP) can’t discriminate.
This idea is the basis of what makes the internet work. It allows people across the world equal access to information, fostering the ability for alternative news or entertainment to exist.
The “Wild West” nature of the unregulated Internet allows sites like Wikileaks to operate, so it’s no wonder why some political parties are trying so hard to overturn net neutrality.
House Republicans have already voted to invalidate the FCC net neutrality bill that was passed, seemingly intent on allowing corporations the ability to discriminate between traffic going to different sites or services. This would allow ISPs to do a number of things that would harm the basic ideals of the Internet, such as instituting a tiered plan where you had to pay for a “plan” similar to cable television that allowed you fast access to certain websites and slow or no access to others.
Comcast, for instance, could create a Comcast video service and slow down access to Netflix, ruining their ability to compete.
They could restrict access to alternative news sources like the Huffington Post, leaving us with Yahoo or AOL News. Considering Comcast has already been caught examining Internet traffic and slowing down certain sites like Netflix, they have already set a precedent for this kind of behavior.
Republicans claim that the net neutrality rules could lead to more regulation by the government or the FCC.
When the only other option is no regulation, allowing ISPs to do whatever they want without fear of retribution, then some regulation becomes a lot more attractive than none.
Unfortunately the FCC bill still didn’t go far enough and left many supporting it disappointed. The ability of the FCC to regulate broadband connections remained, but mobile connections are facing much less regulation as far as allowing ISPs to discriminate between traffic.
In a day and age where everyone is using the internet for entertainment, news, social networking and work, net neutrality is more important than ever. The ability to regulate the internet and maintain an equal playing field is integral to its survival.
Without net neutrality, consumers will be left at the whim of corporations who care more for money than for assuring us equal treatment for our Facebook profiles and blogs about puppies.
Ben Ebell can be contacted at