UNITED STATES—Once upon a time, some academics and some military people got together and said, hey, we have a whole lot of computing power here, but a lot of it is being wasted because we can’t get all our computers together to talk to one another. So, they put together the networks they had already begun and the global Internet was born. It was not done to make a profit. It was not done to advance any national interest. It was done because it became possible to do it and not doing it made no sense whatsoever. So, a considerable amount of public money was invested in this public initiative, and we completely changed the face of human interaction and communication into an entirely novel and exciting force for the 21st century.
Of course, this did not happen for free. We taxpayers paid most of the bills for this. And then we started to subscribe to a whole industry that came into being to supply our need for access to data. We pay, they give us data. We pay for full and unfettered access to data. We want to be able to determine what we access, when, how much and, at least to a certain extent, how fast. We pay for this every month. If we want it faster, we pay more. We assume that we will receive a regular and unimpeded access. It’s like water or power. We assume it is provided to us, the same as it is to everyone else. Very few people have any choice of internet service provider. You get this one, because their wires pass in front of your house. You have no more choice than you have a choice of which sewer to connect to.
The term “net neutrality” confuses many people. What is it? Basically, the Internet is a bunch of roads that connect things. Like any road, the amount of stuff you can get to go down the road depends largely on how big it is. Right now, everybody, whether it is your corner bookstore or Amazon.com gets to use the same roads on an equal basis. We all get to use the road equally. There are exceptions made for fire trucks or ambulances, but generally speaking you can choose to go whatever way you want that you think will work for you. So can your data. We do not have special roads that are only for limousines so rich people can get places, while we have to wait.
Most of the delay you experience using the Internet today happens because you are connected to the Information Superhighway with a tiny little gravel footpath – a phone line because that’s what you can afford. A business like Amazon.com has its own highway and they pay a lot for it, but that makes sense because they have the traffic to justify that expense.
What is being proposed now is a set of rules that let big businesses, with wealth and power, buy a special amount of speed for their stuff. What’s wrong with that?
Imagine a world where you were not allowed to use the freeways – you had to take only the back streets and you couldn’t pick any route you wanted, unless you wanted to rack up big tolls. The big businesses can use the highways, and the highways are practically empty, so they can go super fast. Their data gets preferential treatment on our Internet because they can afford to pay a lot more. Their businesses show up on your monitor quickly, while the mom and pop stores take a long time to load. This isn’t delay because you have a crappy connection. This is a long load time because someone else has paid to make their data go faster, which inevitably makes everybody else’s data go slower.
There are only so many roads and only so much traffic that can go down them in any unit time. If you start giving over parts of the data transport system to special users, so their data can go faster, you slow everybody else down. This is just physics.
Do you want our schools and universities to be in competition with big business when accessing educational resources on the Internet? Do you want big retailers to get fast service and squeeze out small, local retailers? Many local businesses that employ millions of people in our towns and cities only manage to stay in business because of the income they can make by conducting some business online. There are so many interesting and unique resources that would be made unreachable because of slow connection speeds. They do not operate on a profit margin or sales volume that would allow them to pay as much as big corporations can afford.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my choices taken away because some rich guy can afford to get special treatment. I think that is uncompetitive and anti-American. It plays into the hands of the big businesses that want to be monopolies and it serves the public interest not at all. As we know from innumerable past experiences, it will result in higher prices for us all and worse service, again.
So, what do you do about it? Well, for a limited time, the FCC, which regulates the companies that operate the Internet infrastructure, is holding hearings about the issue of net neutrality. It is important that everyone pays attention, speaks up, and takes action against the companies that are trying to torpedo net neutrality so they can make more money.
Today, in these United States of the 21st century, we don’t have any kind of guarantee that our legislators and the people they appoint will listen to us, and do as we ask, as should happen in a free republic. This is a problem. This is perhaps the biggest problem we face as a nation. Our legislators and their minions don’t have a good history of listening to us lately. But we cannot accept this and allow ourselves to snuggle down into a comfortable blanket of apathy. That way tyranny lies.
http://www.fcc.gov/comments is the address to submit your opinion, and make your voice be heard. This issue will not only affect you and your neighbors, but generations of people all over the world who use and depend on resources that are on the US portion of the Internet. This is our Internet, net neutrality is necessary to keep it that way. Comment TODAY.