As I have mentioned in many columns, the Internet and related technologies have massively changed how we live our lives. Shopping no longer requires us to be physically at a store, and a wealth of information is now available for all. However, this state of affairs may be about to change. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission started to consider removing net neutrality regulations on the Internet in the United States. These rules have only been in place for two years so far, but removing them would be of enormous detriment to small businesses in this area and around the country.
So what is net neutrality? According to proponents, it’s the principle of making sure all data on the internet is treated the same way and allowed to load at the same speed. The Internet would be classified essentially as a public utility, such as electricity and water, so anyone who purchases Internet access has the same experience.
But how would getting rid of net neutrality affect you? Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T say net neutrality rules are unnecessary and hampering their business. They feel certain websites using massive amounts of bandwidth on their networks, such as Netflix and YouTube, should have to pay more for the oversized burden they impose, potentially squeezing out other content and slowing speeds down for others.
While this might sound fair in practice, net neutrality advocates point out allowing companies to charge certain sites more will create different tiers of the Internet. Websites that pay extra money to the Internet provider would be put in “fast lanes” and their content would load faster for consumers. However, websites that do not pay extra to the provider face being put into “slow lanes” where their content will load much slower than other sites. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a slow website, you can see how this might affect businesses online. Faced with this choice, many companies may pay the fees and pass the costs onto consumers. Or, in the case of a local business, they might not be able to afford the potentially exorbitant fees at all.
This could also affect us individually as consumers. If you buy the cheapest Internet plan, your speeds could be slower than the person who pays for the ultimate bundle package. This could squeeze people in a financial pinch from being able to use the Internet to its full potential, expanding the gap between richer and poorer students, for example.
From its beginning, the Internet has been a free place for people to start and expand businesses, access news and other information content, and share knowledge. Companies such as Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist, familiar names we see everyday, would not exist without it. But the potential for further growth and innovation could be stifled. If the next Amazon, for instance, instead of being able to sell their products freely, is choked out by high fees and forced to be in a “slow lane,” its traffic could be massively hampered and never be able to grow and expand to its full potential.
We should make sure whichever rules are in effect, the Internet remains the place that advanced the world economy and forever changed how we do business and communicate. Companies and people should come together to learn more about this issue and see how either option, net neutrality or no net neutrality, would affect their businesses and their lives. We shouldn’t be fooled into supporting something before we know all of the facts for ourselves. It’s in our cities’, state’s, and country’s interest.
Connor Kockler is a Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.
Author: Connor Kockler
Kockler enjoys extensive reading, especially biographies and historical novels, and he has always had an almost inborn knack for writing well. He also enjoys following the political scene, nationally and internationally. In school, his favorite subjects are social studies and language. Two of his other hobbies are golfing and bicycling.