I love the internet. Not just because it allows me to keep up with the Royal baby or find ridiculous jokes to parrot (although I do that sometimes too). I love it because it puts nearly the entire store of human knowledge at our finger tips. I love it because it lets us communicate, organize, and share ideas with people who maybe in the next county or on the next continent. I love it because it can bring us into contact with some of the best and brightest people in the world. Prior to the twentieth century, ideas traveled at a mind-numbingly slow pace. You had to be in the right place at the right time to hear the latest and greatest news from the scientific, artistic, or literary communities. Now, thanks to the internet, all of these great ideas are (often literally) sitting across the table from you. Just the other day, Elie Wiesel came to my house to talk about literature, truth, and other small issues like those. A while before that, I attended a concert given by Jascha Heifetz. The week before that, Ray Bradbury sat right there in my bedroom and taught me how to write. If we only had the drive to put it to use, the internet could usher in the greatest intellectual renaissance in history.
But that can only happen if we, the idea-makers, control it. Who controls the internet right now? I would say its users. They develop the content for it and they decide what content becomes successful or fails. There’s no velvet rope to get past. Anyone with an internet connection is free to jump in and start creating.
That’s why I am against net neutrality. I know, it seems contradictory: why wouldn’t I want all content to be equally accessible to everyone? I do, but I want the owners of the internet to make that happen, not the government.
In case you’ve been completely ignoring the news for the past few weeks, the federal government hopes to introduce new regulations to the internet to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) are not charging websites to have their content delivered faster to customers. The idea is to force internet providers to handle all traffic equally, instead of giving preference to the sites that pay more. At first, I thought it was a good idea simply because I didn’t like the thought of someone possibly limiting my access to the content I want in favor of things I’ll probably never want. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with the pro-net neutrality argument. An ISP is a business, just like a restaurant or a store: if restaurants and stores get to choose what food to serve or what items to keep in stock, why should it matter if internet service providers pick and choose what content to deliver the fastest? Of course, it could become an inconvenience to the people who want to access that content, but that’s the beauty of the free market: there are dozens of other ISPs to choose from. If one company does not deliver certain content as fast as it once did, your options are open.
Forcing net neutrality would be the first set of government regulations ever imposed upon the internet. We’ve all heard complaints of how government regulation slows down progress in the business world: imagine if the world of the internet was bogged down by similar regulations. One of the things we prize most about the internet is the fact that it is ever-changing. It updates and improves (or rather, it usually improves) as fast as the idea-makers and internet owners wish. Imagine if all of these internet providers had the threat of government intervention looming over their heads every time they wanted to try something new.
As it stands now, the internet, as far as I can tell, is not in any peril of being overrun by greedy ISPs. We are all still free to create, share, and innovate as we please. And that’s how we should keep it.
I know this isn’t a political blog, nor do I want a political blog, but I thought I should air my feelings on the subject, seeing that we’re all readers and all readers love and cherish free expression.