I would feel my rights as a customer being violated if my electricity company told me that the electricity used on a Philips brand light bulb would be weaker and cost 5 cents more per watt than it would on ones made by General Electric. Such action from the electricity provider would be absurd, and, in fact, illegal, because the provider is classified as a common carrier.
However, because the Internet has not been recognized as a public utility, you may find yourself in a situation similar to the aforementioned scenario if the Federal Communications Commission adopts the rule to allow Internet service providers to prioritize certain traffic.
After significant lobbying effort and money from cable companies such as Comcast, the proposed rule is likely to authorize ISPs to charge businesses to deliver their content faster than their competitors and charge customers to have “fast-lane” Internet access.
This proposed regulation from the FCC will defeat the principle of net neutrality. Net neutrality means treating all data on the Internet equally. This prevents ISPs from charging differently for the types of content, applications and websites that you choose to use. For instance, it is neither cheaper nor slower to use Facebook than it is to use Yahoo.
What this all would mean for the consumers, if the FCC’s proposal is passed, is that for the same download speed, users will be offered the opportunity to purchase “premium” or “plus” Internet service packages at a higher cost.
The more dangerous and long-term effect of this tragic proposal would be that small Internet businesses would no longer be able to compete with larger companies due to not being able to pay the ISPs to stream their services with priority over
another source. Just imagine an Internet where we all still used Myspace because it had more capital early on to give to ISPs to ensure its website loads faster than Facebook.
This creates what is known as a “closed Internet,” which is detrimental to the unique aspect of the Internet that allows for anyone with a good idea to get it out to the rest of the world regardless of financial capability.
“What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different websites,” said Barack Obama during his presidential campaign in 2007. “And that, I think, destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”
The FCC has been considering the decision either to pass the proposal or to legally classify the Internet as a utility service, like electricity, protecting the freedom and opportunity the Internet has always provided consumers with.
The agency has been welcoming public comments for 120 days since May. The 120 days are nearly up, and the deadline will be Sept. 15. There is still time to send in your opinion to the FCC and your local members of Congress.
Many groups have established websites online, notably savetheinternet.com, to inform people on the subject by showing the approximately 10-minute process of making your voice heard. I believe something that you use every day, most likely all day long, is worth 10 minutes of your time to ensure that it is preserved for our use as well as for the use of future generations.
Kenneth Tallant is a junior liberal arts major from Troy.