Yesterday marked the world’s first “Internet Slow Down Day,” where supporters of net neutrality banded together in an attempt to gain support for their cause. Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet, and all if its data and websites, should be presented on an even playing field, without Internet “fast lanes” for the companies that pay for greater bandwidth.
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ruling to preserve open access to the Internet, but failing to make a final ruling on net neutrality, sparked the flame of protest for many Internet-based companies and individuals alike. The main area of concern for proponents of net neutrality is the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler’s consideration to ban cable companies from deliberately slowing down specific websites, but being open to the idea of having high-speed “toll” lanes for the websites that are willing to pay for them.
One would think that all big-name websites would be gung-ho about the opportunity to pay to have their content more accessible to users, however, hundreds of large broadband-hungry companies are protesting and are showing support for net neutrality. Some of the largest websites taking part include Mozilla, Etsy, Kickstarter, WordPress, Vimeo, Imgur, Foursquare, and Reddit.
Supporters of net neutrality fear that if net neutrality is not imposed on the cable companies, then the control over what users see on the Internet will reside in the hands of the cable companies. The cable companies will control what people see and how fast they can see it, which is seen as a threat to free speech and democracy. To play devil’s advocate, the cable companies’ argument is that websites that stream videos or require significant bandwidth are more expensive to host, and without additional investment video traffic will bottleneck the entire Internet.
If the FCC does choose to forgo net neutrality, it will further increase the gap between big brands with significant marketing budgets and small start-up companies that are struggling to establish themselves on the web. It is already difficult enough for start-up companies to rank on Google due to the extensive search engine optimization campaigns big brands can afford to support. If there were another expense to account for, in the form of a “toll” for a start-up’s website to become more easily accessible to its viewer, it would demolish small business potential for competing with big brands online.
Today we are seeing many websites featuring net neutrality support. They are asking people to sign a petition, send an email, or even contact your district’s Congressman. Granted, the FCC has final say over the net neutrality framework, but Congress could have significant pull in the final outcome. With enough public uproar, net neutrality has a fighting chance at continuing to exist. If you would like to say your piece, you can send a petition to the FCC to save net neutrality by clicking here.