Net Neutrality and Why You Should Care

Perhaps you have heard of Net Neutrality. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you don’t care. You should. If you use the Internet, it affects you. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Net Neutrality is defined as, “The idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination.” In simple terms, everything (legal) on the Internet should be equally accessible to everyone.

Net Neutrality stops Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from playing “Big Brother” and choosing what content is available (via Content Providers) to you at what speed it might be available. Content Providers like Amazon, Netflix, and Apple need ISPs to provide connectivity. The concern is that these connectivity providers (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and others) can pick and choose what content they want to deliver based on financial or other restrictions. As a practical (theoretical) example, without Net Neutrality rules in place, Netflix could pay or otherwise coerce (IE: by withholding premium programming) Charter Communications so that Netflix content streams significantly faster than Amazon content. As large as Charter’s customer base is (over 6.7 million people), this could be an inconvenience for Amazon users potentially causing them to stop using the service because it’s simply not fast enough. This example illustrates the potential financial impact and doesn’t even touch on the potential repercussions of small business vs. big business. Lack of rules means that the big companies can stifle innovation by simply forcing out upstart competition.

As consumers, how we access our work or entertainment is now completely enmeshed in our ability to access data online or “in the cloud”. Having the company or companies with the most money deciding what we can have access to goes against the idea of free speech. It’s not free speech if the mechanisms to access the message are controlled by those with the most money or political clout.

This makes it that much more important for you to be aware of the position of the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. FCC chair Ajit Pai proposes to eliminate “the so-called Internet conduct standard.” While the speech itself can be found here, our recommendation is that you take some time read up on Net Neutrality and how it might affect you and your business – if not just for you, but for generations to come.

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