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Net neutrality is an important principle that forms the bedrock of how we, as Americans, utilize the Internet (and it is also a concept that is found in most other advanced industrialized countries). In its most basic form, net neutrality states that Internet providers cannot charge customers more to access certain websites. In other words, Internet providers must charge a bundled price for Internet — they cannot charge more if a user clicks on Facebook or Twitter or Fox News or CNN. And pricing equity (based on bandwidth usage rather than the particular sites that are visited) is not the only component of net neutrality. Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast cannot put up barriers or lower connectivity speeds to impede customers’ access to certain sites. Net neutrality was introduced as a way to ensure that the Internet was not unduly politicized by providers — instead, the Internet should offer access to a variety of opinions, from the popular to the widely criticized.
Many of these net neutrality principles were finally codified by the Obama administration in 2015 in response to concerns by consumers and smaller Internet providers.
For years, net neutrality has been accepted as the guiding principle of how the Internet operated — even though some players voiced their opposition. However, the election of President Trump changed this and put net neutrality back up for debate — his choice as the Head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has vocally proposed putting an end to net neutrality. The FCC will vote on this proposal in December.
And, already, consumer rights groups and public organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have voiced strong opposition to this proposal — saying that it will dramatically impinge of free speech. Conservatives counter with the argument that the Internet is overly regulated and that providers are crippled in their ability to launch innovations or to make profits. They argue that removing regulations will boost business — and, in turn, consumers will also experience positives. One positive that they claim will happen is that Internet providers will be more likely to invest in technology — improving the quality of the Internet that consumers will see.
As many analysts and commentators have rightly noted the key question at the heart of the debate is: Who owns the Internet or does anyone own the Internet? Proponents of net neutrality would likely argue either that nobody owns the Internet or that it is owned by users who pay to access it or content companies that populate the information with a wide range of material. Opponents of net neutrality, on the other hand, would likely take an alternative point-of-view. They would contend that the Internet is owned by Internet providers — and that, these providers should thus reap the financial benefits of the Internet.
It is hard to see how people with such diametrically opposed viewpoints could ever reach a middle ground.
In a best case scenario, the end of net neutrality will lead Internet service providers to dramatically increase their investment into the Internet — generating a significantly improved product and service for users. In the worst-case scenario, some skeptics have painted an apocalyptic vision of the Internet in which the government will control the flow of information to citizens via favored Internet providers. In this worst-case example, people will need to pay astronomical prices (on top of their usual Internet service fees) to access sites, like The Washington Post or The New York Times. On the other hand, government-favored sites, such as Breitbart and Fox News, would be available for free.
This would significantly distort the market — and, in the long-term, it would likely lead to a less well-educated population.
Speculating about the future is always fraught with risks and uncertainties. Therefore, it is not entirely clear what impact the end of net neutrality would have on Americans in the long-term. However, even with these challenges, it seems much more likely that the end of net neutrality will have serious and profoundly negative impacts on consumers.
Jessica is a Freelance Writer and a Business Owner of a Personal + Virtual Assistant company based in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She has been freelance writing since 2013, where she mostly covered topics in the healthcare field. However, since 2015 when Jessica founded her business, she decided to switch it up and begin writing about topics outside of just the healthcare realm. You will find her writing about everything from workplace safety to how to become a virtual assistant.
Jessica obtained her undergraduate degree in Health Administration with a minor in Gerontology (Aging Studies) at Eastern Michigan University. She also completed her Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Public Health Informatics from Michigan State University. She is a Spartan!
In Jessica's free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, trying new restaurants, shopping, and being around family & friends.
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