Preserving the internet

flyer_Reed SheltonBY REED SHELTON
@ReedAShelton
Staff Writer

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deserves nothing less than a standing ovation for its decision to uphold the call for “Net Neutrality,” a decision that will stave off the greedy machinations of corporate Goliaths that would have favored investors over consumers and monopolies over competition.

With their decision, the FCC have hopefully ensured that the open and even playing field that has defined the internet since its inception will remain. For those of us that consider the information superhighway one of humanity’s greatest achievements – alongside agriculture, antibiotics and aerospace technology – this is a tremendous victory.

What the telecommunications giants like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon wished to do was nothing short of the behavior of cartels. In exchange for paying premiums, websites would have prevented their data from being throttled en route to their viewers – that is, the giants were not offering new “fast lanes” at all, but instead using strong-arm tactics to turn a profit via the threat of being thrown into a slow lane.

Behavior such as that is the very antithesis of the free-market values that these corporations were claiming as the basis of their motivation. That claim is not just laughable, but utterly absurd as the end result would have been the inability of consumers to easily access smaller business startups or non-profit websites unable to afford these premiums.

The internet has become a fundamental public interest, as important as the telephone; a virtual necessity to an informed, efficient life in the twenty-first century. We communicate with it. We keep in touch with it. We bank and shop with it. We use it to better understand politics and the world around us, and for research to advance the sciences. Sometimes we even relax and goof off with it.

It is not for those that seek to increase their already-astronomical profit margin to dictate our ability to access any tiny fraction of it, and that sentiment is the basis of what has become known as Net Neutrality.

Comcast – lobbying heavily against Net Neutrality and the vast swath of public opinion in favor of regulation – has already announced its intention to sue the FCC, claiming that the agency overreached its authority. Yet while Comcast says it has no interest in throttling or blocking data transmissions, they have already done so on multiple occasions and been punished by the FCC for it.

Verizon has said exactly the same in the past, and has argued in court that they have a First Amendment right to block competitors’ websites.

No, you didn’t misread that. Verizon actually used the First Amendment to justify their profit-driven desire to prevent you from seeing information put onto the internet. Let that sink in for a moment.

Should you, a Verizon subscriber, have to suffer through unbearably slow Netflix speeds because Netflix didn’t pay extra to Verizon? Of course not. Netflix, like any other web service or site, should transmit data to you at the full speed your connection is capable of without interference. Yet that is precisely what happened last year before Netflix agreed to pay Verizon’s ransom in exchange for providing quality streaming movies to its customers.

This is precisely the sort of behavior that supporters of Net Neutrality have feared and fought against.

“Federal regulation,” has become something of a dirty thing to suggest these days. Libertarian, laissez-faire capitalists – sometimes genuine, sometimes just wearing a disguise – have argued for a hands-off approach for government, saying that the market should work these things out on their own. Sometimes, that is an agreeable notion.

Not this time.

This time, the FCC has said, in effect, “The internet will remain as it is and always has been.”

These regulations will actually prevent anyone from sculpting the internet into something that has proven nearly perfect from the beginning. The government hasn’t changed anything. It has simply said that no one else can or should, and anyone that has grown up with the internet should agree with that.

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