Home > Blogs > Toll Booths & Control: The Quest Against Net Neutrality

Maybe you have heard the term Net Neutrality. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, if you’re reading this and you love the Internet, Net Neutrality is something you need to know about.

1. What is Net Neutrality?

Every time you read an article or listen to a news story concerning Net Neutrality, the subject seems overly complicated. It isn't. Net Neutrality is the potential toll booth model of the Internet. ISP (Internet Service Providers) are attempting to establish a pay-to-play Internet service model in which companies willing to pay higher monthly fees (tolls, bribes) will receive preferential treatment - speed, connection, e.g. Internet resources - over those not willing or unable to pay. Net Neutrality is the extortion of the Internet by the very companies who provide it to the marketplace.

2. Why does Net Neutrality Matter?

The basic foundational framework of the Internet is open source. Open source, a level playing field in which content and access to resources are spread evenly across the playing field - has allowed companies like Google and Facebook to thrive and it allows a kid in his Santa Monica, CA basement to dream, create and build a company which one day might supplant Google and Facebook. Net Neutrality matters because if only the big boys of the Internet have access to preferential resources, the big boys can use those resources to keep competition down - to squash the kid in his basement before he ever gets going. That point is key. Some will say offering a continuous level playing field inhibits capitalism. The truth is by taking that level playing field away, companies have the ability to squash and kill open competition.

Net Neutrality matters to you because you love Netflix, Twitter and Amazon. Moreover, you love your ability to access Internet resources, create an app/program and have it play across a level playing field. Net Neutrality matters because it is democratic and capitalist in nature.

3. Why are ISP's Pushing to End Net Neutrality?

Control and money. The old saying, "what does a man with power want? Answer: more power," safely applies here. The main reason ISP's like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner are pushing to end Net Neutrality is because ISP's want to have the power to enforce and favor what content from what company gains the best traction across the Internet.

4. What are the Consequences of Ending Net Neutrality?

In its most basic form Net Neutrality refers to the barrier of entry. Whereas the Internet was founded and operates on a level playing field/open source, regional ISP’s like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner etc. have proposed a toll model of the Internet. In this model, companies who paid ISP’s more would receive preferential treatment (higher speed, better connection) than companies who choose not to. Preferential treatment or a pay-to-play model of the Internet would shift the Internet from Net Neutrality to corporate advantage based on paid dollars and cents.

Much like the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (ruled January 21, 2010) decision, the end of Net Neutrality would equate to an Internet ruled by those who have the most money to spend paying off ISP’s. Like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Net Neutrality aims to make money equal speech.

As you can imagine, ending Net Neutrality would intensely shift the Internet playing field, tilting it dramatically in favor of moneyed interests making the barrier to entry near impossible. The end of Net Neutrality would make new Internet enterprise and ideas much harder to come by.

5. What Impact Would Ending Net Neutrality Have on Me?

Maybe you have heard the digital marketing phrase, “content is king”. Astute followers of digital marketing, social media and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) know the maxim. More and more, the Internet is moving towards the content model of marketing. This shift to content means the public Internet (I will cover the dark net in another post) is moving more towards blogging, image and heavy data (videos, gifs, infographics) content specifically designed to answer targeted search queries, spur clicks and gain virality.

The content you personally search for and consume on the Internet is the result of a content producer somewhere in the world answering a specific question. In this case, the content you are currently consuming is answering the search query, “Why does Net Neutrality Matter?” But what if this piece of content took a longer period of time to load than another piece of content? What happens if the movie you are streaming on Netflix took infinitely longer to load and buffer than a movie on Hulu? What happens if this longer load/buffer time was due to one content provider (Hulu) paying the enforced ISP toll while Netflix chose not to?

If this happens, I would imagine you would be pretty pissed. This is how net neutrality impacts the average consumer. The end of Net Neutrality would mean the content you love – an Internet based on content – would be taxed, slowed and cherry picked – on the basis of pay-to-play rather than on content specifically designed to answer targeted search queries, spur clicks and gain virality.

The end of Net Neutrality would mean the end of level playing field, innovation and equal access to Internet content.

John Oliver is right. Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner etc. are wrong. Hopefully the FCC will side with Net Neutrality. Not against it.

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