OPINION: Keep the Internet fair and free
Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer
On February 26, 2015, we won the internet, and now presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to take that victory away from us.
That fateful day was the day that the Federal Communication Commission ruled in favor of net neutrality, the idea that internet service providers should treat all internet traffic and data equally. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize how abusive Internet Service Providers like Time Warner Cable and Comcast could be without such regulations.
Net neutrality prevents ISPs from implementing “fast lanes” that would allow them to speed up or slow down web sites, typically in exchange for money. For instance, Comcast could tell Netflix that it’s going to significantly drop the speed of its website if it doesn’t pay a certain price, in turn hurting both Netflix and consumers of media on Netflix. This could also give large companies an unfair advantage over others; for example, Netflix could pay Comcast a high price to get increased speeds over rival companies like Hulu and Amazon. This is especially detrimental to small start-up companies that simply wouldn’t have the capital to compete if large companies bought their way into these “fast lanes.”
Bush claims that by subjecting all ISPs net neutrality regulations, it prohibits one group of companies (ISPs) from charging another group of companies (content companies) which in turn hurts ISPs and hurts their ability to innovate and improve service. Although the first half of what he said is true, the regulations are necessary to protect an open internet and the interests of the people and in this case, other big companies. When it comes to innovating and improving service, ISPs stopped doing that a long time ago once they set up monopolies all across the country. They don’t need to innovate when they don’t allow any other viable options to compete with them. Additionally they are not trying eliminate net neutrality to create capital for investments, they are in it for profit not people.
Normally regulations like this would be seen as a fight between the people and big business, but this battle is being fought solely against ISPs. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Microsoft and many more have all come out in favor of net neutrality. This is one of the few examples in modern America where activists and large corporations are actually on the same side of an issue, so if nearly everyone is in favor of net neutrality, why is Jeb a supporter of its downfall?
One simple and major factor could be how much influence money has on politics. In 2014 alone, Comcast spent a staggering $17,020,000 on lobbying, and that is just one of many ISPs. That much purchasing power can create a lot of influence on government and politicians, which takes their attention away from the needs of the people and puts it toward the wants of their donors. But the fact is that the people are the ones who elect these politicians into office and our opinion matters more than any donation from a company, so Mr. Bush, here is mine.
The internet is, and should be, a level playing field where a small start-up can topple a large established brand. The internet should remain equal for all companies, and ISPs should not have the power to change that. ISPs should not be allowed to set up “fast lanes” for some web sites and not all for others, and net neutrality should absolutely not be repealed.