News Columns & Blogs

Net neutrality protects free speech on Internet

Network neutrality or net neutrality as it is often called is a movement concerned with protecting our digital rights in this digital age. Having a “neutral” Internet protects our freedom of speech, has a positive effect on our economy and drives innovation. Without some sort of basic rights set forth, we are at the whims of both Internet service providers and the government. Imagine a time in the future. Imagine a government that no longer represents the voice of the people. A number of grassroots organizations begin to form to protest the people’s unfair treatment. They unfortunately cannot reach most other citizens because the county’s largest ISP supports the current administration and has blocked all of their Internet access. They are not able to get their Web sites viewed, exchange e-mails or any of the other Web-based activities that are so vital today. Net neutrality legislation would take steps to assure this scenario does not happen by assuring our right to freely give our opinion and to freely hear the opinions of others.

Net neutrality also benefits the economy because it stimulates innovation and competition. Without it, an ISP could block Web based services that compete with their own. might not have gotten so far if cable companies that provide Internet access blocked Youtube content as it competed with their cable product. The beauty of the Internet is that it is an even playing field. If you have a better idea, you can almost instantly compete with the established guys. As can be seen, the Internet needs to remain neutral for all for fair competition to occur for any Web-centric business.

Because the Internet is a relatively new phenomenon, there is little to no legislation protecting our rights. This needs to be changed and will only be done so with our support and action. If there were a healthier amount of competition in the ISP market then net neutrality could be decided by consumers choosing the most fair and neutral provider. Unfortunately, as Rob Stitt notes,

net neutrality would be far less contentious if there were a healthy, competitive environment for Internet access, with a large base of established ISPs everyone could choose from and entry costs for new ISPs that made it possible for new ISPs to compete against their more established counterparts. In such an environment, companies that are too restrictive would lose business. However, the necessity of running lines to every home or putting antennas in every neighborhood means the cost of staying competitive is extremely high.

Due to this, most consumers are limited to a choice of two providers in their area and are stuck with either the phone or cable company. The only way we can have our rights preserved is through making our voice heard.