Don Moore

Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

In Business, Google, Internet, Politics on August 7, 2010 at 8:41 AM

This tech blog, run by yours truly, costs me no money to operate. It’s hosted for free by WordPress. I have no ads; I generate no revenue from this site. It’s David to Gizmodo’s and Engadget’s Goliaths. Yet you, the reader, can access my site, and the thousands of other independent blogs scattered across the net, at the same speed as you do major sites like Google or Yahoo. It’s called net neutrality.

As Columbia Professor Tim Wu puts it: “Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally.”

This principle, that of equality of internet content, has made the internet what it is. It’s what separates the web from television or print media, where it takes millions of dollars to have your voice heard. Yet there are accusations that corporate giants seek to undermine this principle. Two days ago, the New York Times reported that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement on so called “tiered service”, in which Verizon would set up tiers of service, allowing content providers to get their content to end users faster- for an extra fee, of course. Google and Verizon deny these accusations.

There’s probably many a reader going “So what?” right now. Why would I care if some if some sites load faster for me than others? Wouldn’t that be better for me, anyway? On it’s face, net neutrality seems like a non issue. But here’s why it should matter to you.

As of now, you have a choice between an independently run site like my own, and a giant like Google. The only difference between the two is content: You choose what you view based on what you like more. Now imagine if net neutrality were to be scrapped in favor of tiered service. Google owned Youtube would be able to stream video to your computer far faster than a video site run by a man running a site from his home. It would no longer be an even playing field: Google automatically has an (unfair) leg up on the little guys. Those with the ability to pay more are now able to shout louder on the internet.

The very idea of paying more to be granted a larger, more receptive audience on the net is anathema to the principles on which the internet was founded. It’s anti-competitive, and an imminent threat to the free flow of information. For this reason, internet users everywhere should oppose the attempts to do away with net neutrality.

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