Why Net Neutrality Truly Matters
Net Neutrality: Keeping access to the internet unbiased towards a particular viewpoint, opinion, entity, website, etc. for the betterment of humankind. -Jesus Capo Jr
22 November 2017
We are currently in the greatest era of human communication and informational access.
Access to the world’s information right at our finger tips, fastest communication rates, ability to view footage related to any topic…
This is all made possible through computers and the free marketplace of ideas we call the internet.
Currently (November 2017) there are restrictions and regulations put in place by the United States Federal Government to ensure that the entities who supply access to the internet do not influence what the users search or have access to. But this may soon change.
It was recently announced that by December 2017, restrictions and regulations on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States will be greatly eased (if approved). The consequences of this may include:
- Limiting of access to certain websites/services by ISPs in favor of others
- Allocation of connection resources to enable certain websites to run faster than others
- Blocking of websites which the ISP is competing with or does not agree with
Of course, just because the restrictions and monitoring may be eased does not guarantee that the ISPs will follow that route, but it is more than likely that this will occur.
Simply the ability for ISPs to filter what can and cannot be seen by users of the internet is, in of itself, a travesty of democracy, and this post is will demonstrate why such a proposal is fundamentally wrong.
This post will cover:
- What net neutrality is
- A philosophical view on net neutrality
- Why it is in the best interest of ISPs to stay away from the breaking net neutrality
- Are ISPs allowed to break net neutrality?
- Final words
Hopefully this will fully explain the importance of net neutrality and why I believe it is absolutely necessary in this era of information.
What is Net Neutrality?
In short, net neutrality is the principle that access to the internet should not be biased towards any particular entity or opinion. ISPs, which supply the access to the internet to the consumer should not, under the principle of net neutrality, influence what any internet user views or decides by blocking access to certain websites or changing the speed of a website to either encourage/discourage users from accessing it.
An Internet Service Provider which religiously follows the tenants of net neutrality has the following aspects:
- Ability to access all websites (of course, private websites are still allowed. But the general ability to access all websites if the user desires is not restricted by the ISP)
- Every website is provided an equal amount of resources which determine its site speed (any difference in speed is the fault of the website owner, not the ISP in this case)
- No specific viewpoint, entity, website, etc. is promoted more then the rest (in terms of the thing itself. Of course, algorithms such as Google’s which indexes websites are still allowed because they are not the ones giving the overall access and the user chooses to use a specific search engine with a variety of options. For this point, as long as website rankings are not based on the ISPs own viewpoints, biases, or vested interests, net neutrality is still maintained)
- All people have access to the internet no matter the area or region (if some areas cannot be reached because of clear geographical reasons then this is fine, but a specific area should not be omitted simply because the ISP has a vested interest to not supply internet to such regions)
If you think about it, net neutrality is very simple to achieve on the part of the ISP. However, vested interests may get in the way, and this has led ISPs to desire the breaking of net neutrality for their own financial gains. So far, government-issued restrictions and regulations have prevented ISPs from breaking net neutrality for their own benefits, but the possible elimination of such regulations may cause net neutrality to be a thing of the past unless we do something about it.
Philosophy of Net Neutrality
In order to understand the philosophical implications of net neutrality (or the lack thereof), here are a few of the central benefits of an internet of net neutrality:
- Access to the world’s information without limitations caused by the vested interest of large cooperations
- Equal opportunity for smaller websites/entities to compete with larger entities on a global scale
- A free(r) online market
- An online experience which feels natural and not riddled with traps put in place by the ISPs (this is not to say that items such as online ads don’t take away from the user experience when browsing the internet, but ads to not fundamentally change the internet itself…all they may do is make one distracted but the user is still fully able to browse for anything they desire)
Now, these benefits have quite a few philosophical implications, but I will focus on what I believe to be the most important: choice.
Choice here encompasses choices involving information, money, buying, etc.
If the ISPs break net neutrality, they are breaking the aspect of free choice within the internet. Choices becomes artificially influenced by what the ISP wants and not what the consumer wants.
Therefore, on a philosophical level, the ISPs should not be allowed to artificially influence the choices of their consumers. Limiting users’ access to information and websites leads to a less educated group of people who end up becoming brainwashed by what the ISPs advocate and, if an entire generation passes without a change in such a system, it may become the norm.
Without choice in what information we consume, we only view the viewpoints others want us to view. This leads to very limited and uneducated thinking.
These conclusions may seem a bit far-fetched, but their fundamental arguments reign true as seen in previous censoring/limitation of information in history.
Overall, net neutrality ensures that our ability to choose what we view, read, and buy on the internet is not damaged by the ones who provide access to the internet.
It is choice which allows us to prosper, advance, and communicate while contributing to the success of the human species.
The limiting of choice damages such advancement.
Why it is Not Beneficial for ISPs to Break Net Neutrality
I would like to briefly mention why the breaking of net neutrality is not beneficial for ISPs in the long run:
- Public Backlash: Probably the most apparent, it is clear that the public is not in favor of the idea of allowing ISPs to break net neutrality. Although the methods of such backlash remain to be seen, this is almost a guarantee.
- Competition Among ISPs: Competition is always good in a capitalist system for the consumer. However, for the ISPs, it may be seen that ISPs which do not break net neutrality use this to their advantage and highly advertise this distinction. Therefore, in any area of 2 or more ISPs, an individual ISP runs the risk of this occurring if it does not follow the principles of net neutrality. (Of course, with deals between ISPs and monopolies on internet service in certain areas, this may not be an issue for some ISPs. However, it is still important and interesting to note that this may occur)
- Rising of New ISPs: This is unlikely due to the dominance of current ISPs, but the possibility exists that new ISPs run by net neutrality advocates (or simply companies/people taking advantage of the situation) will arise and compete against the current ISPs. (Again, very unlikely. But still interesting to think about!)
- Wrong Side of History: It appears that the ISPs would be taking advantage of their position by going against net neutrality rather than legitimately earning their capital by demonstrating to the consumer that their service is unique and better than the others… Consumers don’t enjoy being taken advantage of. This may not end well.
These are the central reasons why I believe it is not in the best interest for ISPs to even publicly mention their intent to break net neutrality, let alone implement policies which go against net neutrality.
Are ISPs Allowed to Break Net Neutrality?
Some have argued that it is the right of the ISPs to be allowed to restrict aspects of their service since they own all the resources which allow for such access, but these arguments do not take into account that the ISPs do not own the internet. It is the same as how the ones who pave the road cannot delegate which cars drive on it.
Additionally, part of the central purpose of the internet is that it is a free marketplace of ideas where anybody can say or search for anything, and ridding the internet of this in any way severely damages how people think about and use the internet. By breaking net neutrality, the ISPs would be infringing on the rights of those who use the internet by changing a key aspect of what it currently, by definition, guarantees.
The ISPs should provide reliable access and nothing more.
Overall, I believe that net neutrality is a vital aspect of life in the 21st century not only due to its tangible benefits but also for what it represents on a philosophical level.
The idea of breaking net neutrality is an entirely backwards notion and one which, I think, will not go very far.
We the public and users of the internet will find ways to ensure net neutrality is never broken and that such an idea is never conceived in the future.
Because the internet is ours. And it should continue being a free marketplace of ideas and thoughts which are not filtered by outside entities.
The regulations on Internet Service Providers may be lifted soon.
But we will ensure that they won’t think twice about maintaining net neutrality.
-Jesus Capo Jr
P.S. I would also like to note that it is quite interesting that in the future, this post may be censored/bottlenecked by ISPs who do not want the idea of the importance of net neutrality to be spread. Quite interesting… a self aware post which, if censored, simply proves the point it is trying to prove. Magnificent!