It’s the buzzword that’s sure to be a hot partisan topic in the upcoming presidential race: net neutrality. The term itself is complicated and many feel very strongly about their position on the subject. And it’s sad that the details get twisted by the political sphere. In very simple terms, net neutrality is the idea that all information present on the internet is treated equally in terms of access by the consumer.
If you’re new to the subject, I recommend taking a moment to indulge in John Oliver’s 13 minute rant on why net neutrality is important. It’s gold.
Opponents of net neutrality, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, present a rather complicated and twisted argument. Cruz’s position is “don’t mess with the internet.” But taking the internet away from net neutrality, and giving it solely to large ISP (Internet Service Providers) corporations such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable without any oversight, would be a mistake.
If the internet moves away from net neutrality –backed by the millions of dollars of lobbyist money from the likes of Comcast and TWC– then we will see the emergence of slow and fast lanes. Any company who can afford to will be able to pay a premium to deliver its content to consumers faster than other sites. A streaming video service company like Netflix is a prime example. If the internet changes away from net neutrality then Netflix will have to pay more to ISPs to deliver its movies and shows to consumers uninterrupted.
Now, you might be thinking, Clay that sounds wonderful. I can get House of Cards delivered to my computer faster than before without having to pay ISPs more money? Hold your horses. With Netflix paying a higher premium to deliver its content faster, the logical conclusion is that Netflix will pass that cost off to the consumer through higher monthly fees. However, paying more for my Netflix content isn’t my biggest concern.
By taking the internet away from net neutrality, we are going down a path that discourages innovation and creation — the exact opposite of what Sen. Cruz claims. Sen. Cruz says that regulation of the internet is what will impede entrepreneurial innovation. But without regulation, no startup company will be able to compete with large corporations who can afford the fast lane. Right now, my blog is treated the same speed wise as Amazon. With no net neutrality, that wouldn’t be the case. Maybe that’s not a big deal for me and my blog, but I strongly believe that it hurts the chances of another “Facebook” coming into existence. This is exactly why non-ISP tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have publicly came out in support of net neutrality.
Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had to pay a premium fee as a Harvard college student in order to compete with the loading speeds of Myspace. Do you think he could have convinced people to join his social network if their experience was less enjoyable than what they were having on Myspace? Check out Al Franklen’s example regarding net neutrality’s impact on YouTube.
Since its very existence, net neutrality is how the internet has always been. The internet’s innovative future depends on maintaining this open and fair platform.