How neutral is your net? It may not stay that way for long…

Last year Verizon filed an appeal against the FCC after it adopted net neutrality rules. The rules would prohibit phone and  cable companies from discriminating against certain content. On principle, net neutrality is the concept of equal access to all content and services on the internet. Many of those phone and cable companies against net neutrality feel threatened because content providers like Netflix or software like Skype take away from their own similar services. Comcast was caught the year before that (2010) by the FCC for discriminating against large file-serving sites and prioritizing others.

While the current FCC rules protect phone lines- DSL and cable – there are still fewer protections for wireless broadband internet content. As member Chris Calabrese of the ACLU Legislative Council said last year when the measures were passes, “Network neutrality principles are essential to protecting the First Amendment rights of Americans who rely on the Internet as a forum for free speech.”

If equal protections aren’t provided for broadband internet access, that’s an abridgment of free speech. It’s a slipper slope from there until the few most popular sites run the fastest and the lesser known but still important websites will be extremely slow and difficult to access.

Just recently, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings suggested Netflix receive a cut of revenue for how much business they bring to broadband internet. Netflix is the largest providers for internet video, providing nearly 30% of internet traffic during peak periods in the United States.

In another example of net neutrality in the news causing a stir and raising moral dilemmas concerning internet access is about a week ago when Comcast said they would not count their Xfinity content under Open Internet rules. They said net neutrality would not apply there because they owned complete control of the content distribution.(Because being an integrated monopoly is much better.) Comcast changed its mind a few days later saying Xfinity was simply another cable TV alternative. There’s also the issue of a content cap for Xfinity users, who think the bandwidth cap may be a way to keep away cable competitors.

    In the age where internet access is starting to get traction as another vital human right, content users and creators, as well as the FCC need to keep a sharp eye on companies elbowing their way to faster, better access on the internet. Because if some companies are getting preference that means the majority are getting screwed. Those minority sites in turn hurt users, and in cases of independent news sources this effect could be devastating. Without the principles of net neutrality enforced, the internet will no longer be the ultimate equalizer; the open space for discourse and free speech that it has become.
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