Net Neutrality: Why It Matters

Net Neutrality safeguards diversity and equal opportunity. It matters!
Image credit: Shuttersock: Johan Swampoel, Konstantin L., Mr. Doomitz

Net Neutrality safeguards diversity and equal opportunity. It is a matter of personal freedom. It cannot be traded against profit. It matters.

The way information flows through the internet is much like how water flows through a river.

A river system has main streams, side streams. It meanders through the landscape. It is occasionally blocked by dams (firewalls) or overflows into floodplains (buffers). The river provides us with water much like the internet provides us with information.

Now imagine you would have to pay extra for the same water, if you would want to have it delivered to you more quickly. This might make sense for 'water' for it may for instance be less polluted when it arrives quicker in your home. You also might appreciate the higher water pressure from your tap. But 'information' is data. Its quality is in its content, not in the speed it gets delivered to you.

Speed nevertheless is important to the internet world. You want to watch a video uninterrupted, listen to music without drop-outs, read news articles on TAE or quickly browse the web. But this is already the case in most countries.

Why would you want to pay extra for something you already have? 

This would not only apply to you but also to the companies who provide us with the information. In case Net Neutrality would be forfeited, bigger companies would be able to pay more in order for them to get their information quicker to you, when compared to the smaller providers of information. These bigger players would be able to gain more exposure and therefore would have more control over the flow of information. Implicit, passive censorship would be in effect.

Deregulation of the internet doesn't make sense from a business perspective. 

The internet already has a sound and thriving business model. Most if not all revenue is generated by advertising and data mining. That's how Google, Youtube and Facebook became what they are. 

Telecom companies and cable operators have been able to add a whole new segment to their product portfolio which has now surpassed traditional telecommunications in terms of revenue which in return will eventually be completely replaced by internet based technologies. 

Yes, the cost of investments in internet technologies and infrastructure are huge but companies involved have been able to get a return on their investment and profit, even flourish, off them.

So why deregulate the internet? There is no need for it!

In order to get an answer to that question we have to dig a little bit deeper into the political agenda's of those involved. It seems to me that the neo-liberal ghost once again rears it ugly head. The same monster that has devastated our financial and housing markets, education and healthcare. Babylon.

Choice is good. Freedom of choice is better.

If and when Net Neutrality is deregulated and left over to the so-called 'free' market, our choice, our freedom, will be regulated by the way we access information and the manner in which it is delivered to us. 

The deregulation of the internet that is currently looming over our head will impact our ability to access information. It is currently a trending topic in the US and reason for much debate, for there is precedent:

In the 90's, during the Clinton administration, the telecommunication market was deregulated. In terms of news media this had a huge and devastating impact. Within a decade a flourishing, diverse and independent sector of society was reduced from 50 major corporations and numerous smaller operatives to just 6 conglomerates that in many ways operate like a cartel. They decide and determine the news.

Only with the advent of the internet, free and independent news media was able to prosper again. The way in which the internet is constructed and operated, it provides equal access and opportunity for all that partake, both consumers and providers of information.

Now one might say: "Why do I care? I live in Africa, Europe or Asia." 

Then please keep in mind that the US 'owns' the internet. 80% or more of all IP addresses, DNS servers, back-bones, cloud services and the like, i.e. the infrastructure of the internet, is either owned or controlled by US companies and institutions. Whatever the outcome of the political debate in the US, it will impact your life. You therefore should care!

The internet: the fifth estate

The internet has become the de-facto fifth estate of our societies, next to the legislative, executive, judiciary branches and the news media. It matters to us all. It belongs to us all. It should therefore be safeguarded against forces that want to tamper with its independence. 

Don't confuse access to the internet with access to information!

Money is not the driving force where it concerns deregulation. Control of the flow of information is. The debate over Net Neutrality is not over internet access but about the access to information. Access to information on equal unbiased terms. That is what is at stake.

Beware of forces who want to dismantle Net Neutrality! For it would imply censorship at your expense and at the benefit of others.