OK so maybe that title is a bit exaggerated. Of course I could live without these things, just like I could also technically live...
You’ve probably heard a lot about “net neutrality” lately. It’s been in the news because the FCC has regulations that enforce net neutrality, and the Republican-controlled House recently voted to take away the funding so that it cannot be enforced. The net neutrality requirement basically says that all the traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. So basically an email from Barrack Obama will travel at the same speed as my email. It keeps “gatekeepers” from forming, who would seek to regulate the speed of different traffic in order to profit from it.
Who would want to do this? Large telecom providers. They say it’s not fair that they have to bear the burden of all the traffic on their networks without being able to control it. Sounds reasonable, right? Well so did “We’ll be greeted as liberators” and “You can’t tax the job creators” at first.
Telecom companies already profit hugely from the Internet (which was created by the government with public funds by the way). They make billions of dollars by charging for access and for bandwidth. What they want to do is make more money by charging for different “tiers”, so for instance content from a corporate site that can afford to pay a premium will travel faster than content that is from a smaller, less-funded source (like yours truly).
The Internet has become huge because it is the only reliable way to distribute independent content. A band who releases their own album can have their music downloaded just as fast as a band on a major corporate label. A few talented filmmakers can release a movie directly on the Internet and know it will stream just as quickly as a corporate studio film. Can you start to see why corporations don’t like Net Neutrality? It takes away their ability to control distribution and force us to watch the drivel that they decide we should be watching.
That is why we must fight for net neutrality. Without it we will restrict competition and limit options for the public. The Republican House is completely owned by corporate interests and are doing whatever they can to tear down net neutrality. The wildly ironic thing is that they label net neutrality as a “government takeover of the Internet”. The truth is that the government is keeping the Internet as a level playing field while the Republicans are marching forward with a corporate takeover of the Internet. And because of the Citizens United ruling by the conservative court, these telecom companies are able to donate unlimited funds to Republicans to get this passed.
For more information please watch this presentation by Al Franken at SXSW in Austin: