The Internet is imperiled and the government has failed to defend freedom. Corporate interests threaten the last bastion of uncensored information and could stifle technological innovation after a federal appeals court eviscerated the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 net neutrality order this month.
Net neutrality is essentially the principle that every piece of data on the Internet, regardless of source, should be treated equally. As such, the government or Internet service providers should not regulate a customer’s access to content.
After the court’s decision this month, Internet providers may now limit connection to one website in favor of another, and the floodgate of implications regulation entails is foreboding.
In theory, Fox News could pay Verizon to accelerate customer access to their server and choke access to MSNBC. This creates an opportunity for Internet monopolies. If the streaming from Pandora Radio sounded like a cassette tape while Spotify maintained CD quality, Pandora would not stay in business for long.
Furthermore, this stifles innovation through competition. If Netflix doesn’t have to worry about competing with Hulu, it will not be incentivized to provide better service to its customers.
This is not the business philosophy of Adam Smith, the father of the free market, but the business practice of Al Capone.
Net neutrality makes it so companies can’t be complacent in the face of consumer demands.
The Internet has accelerated innovation over the past decade, and this must not be curtailed. If it were not for the open Internet, we would still be paying $25 for a CD that only contains one good song.
Additionally, the new ruling also endangers our ability to create content as individuals. The Internet has enabled anyone from any walk of life to possess a voice and thus allowed a transparent public discourse.
Corporations, under this new ruling, now have the power to say one opinion is more important than another.
It is ironic that the U.S. justice system would rule against liberty. The U.S. was built upon allowing free discussion in an open forum, and an open Internet is this belief practiced in a grandiosity our founder’s could have only dreamed of.
The Internet is not going to change overnight, but users must remain cautious.
Internet service providers recognize their customers would be up in arms if they immediately adapted draconian practices and discriminated against content.
Nonetheless, rights are often taken away incrementally as to not attract notice. Customers must remain vigilant and expressive of their right to free information and expression, a right that has become a privilege susceptible to the will of outside powers.
Wesley Higgins is a junior majoring in mass communications.