Net neutrality important for open Internet


Network neutrality is somewhat of a sticky issue in today’s political environment. While not as high profile as other issues like abortion and the War in Iraq, network neutrality is no less complicated.

Basically, the principle of network neutrality says that broadband carriers, such as ComCast and TimeWarner, should treat all Internet traffic equally, regardless of content or source.

Proponents of network neutrality say this is to ensure that the Internet continues to be the open forum it currently is. The list of proponents of network neutrality is as long as it is varied, including major technology companies like Google and non-profit groups like the American Association of Retired Peoples. According to these groups, if broadband carriers are not forced to treat all traffic equally, eventually traffic that is not in the carriers interest, say from a product competing with a product in their conglomerate, will receive significantly worse service.

Opponents of network neutrality say this is simply not so. When the FCC reclassified DSL, the biggest form of broadband communication, in 2005, broadband carriers became legally able to charge consumers differently based on content. As you might have noticed, though, they haven’t. The Internet still has full network neutrality.

What the broadband carriers propose is a tiered system of offering access to the Internet, so as to better organize the usage of bandwidth. According to the broadband carriers, this will allow consumers to choose what level of service they need. The problem with that comes in when companies with lots of money can buy better service than the average consumer is able to afford.

Of course some Internet traffic is going to transfer faster than others. You have to pay more for faster service with more information, and rightly so. If it costs a company more to provide a service it will naturally cost the consumer more. There’s no way I, as a student, could afford the amount of bandwidth that CSUN, the university, pays for.

Where the trouble comes is when this faster and more complete service is based on the content of the message. When a company’s ad gets to me faster than a friend’s e-mail because the company paid more, we have a problem.

We have a problem when a company looking at the content at all. As a form of communication, the Internet shouldn’t be regulated any different than the telephone or postal service. The phone company shouldn’t listen to my phone calls to my girlfriend and say, “Our phone calls are more important, so they’re going to go through first.” Likewise, my Internet service provider shouldn’t say, “He’s watching a movie on Our ad for him is more important so that’s going to go through faster.”

The Internet, like the telephone and the postal service, should be a form of private communication. Like the telephone and postal service, no one should be able to know what the content is except for the sender and the receiver. My e-mails are just as private as my postal mail, and it should be just as illegal to open an e-mail that’s not for you. The same should apply to any information sent over the Internet, for what is the Internet but little messages being sent back and forth?

Broadband carriers say they’re not going to do any of that, though. What they say they’re going to do doesn’t matter to me, though. The First Amendment wasn’t written in response to our government censoring speech, it was written to prevent it from doing so. Likewise, I don’t want to wait until a company censors my ability to access a site to keep them from doing it, and make no mistake, if given the opportunity they will eventually. I want the Internet to continue to exist as the freest form of speech available.