The internet as a concept is often taken for granted. It allows access to an unlimited wealth of information in a split second, connects long estranged loved ones and provides an open platform for any individual, regardless of their background to make their voice heard. On the internet everything is equal. But this may be about to change due to a brand new attack on “Net Neutrality”, something you’ve probably never even heard of…
What is “Net Neutrality” and why does it matter?
Net Neutrality is the core ideology of the internet. It is, on a fundamental level, the internet’s equivalent to the right to free speech. It allows you, as a user of the internet, to access any content you wish and share any content you wish. It doesn’t matter what that content is. It could be useless facts about cats, your latest art piece, a political blog post or even an article about Net Neutrality. This matters because it allows for open discussion and criticism. Imagine if you were suddenly unable to access YouTube without warning, a whole archive of internet history dating back to 2005 just gone because your Internet Service Provider (ISP) decides they don’t want you to access that site anymore. Wikipedia is another example of an invaluable Internet community that could be affected by this, blocking access to certain pages of Wikipedia could literally change history for the millions, maybe billions of people that access the site every month. Another objective ISPs wish to achieve by tearing down Net Neutrality is the ability to force either website providers or customers to pay more in order to provide more bandwidth to specific sites on the internet. This could lead to mass throttling of Internet traffic to your favourite sites and eventually the death of any company that won’t or can’t pay what is effectively a bribe. This may seem impossible for an ISP company or country to get away with but without Net Neutrality this is a very real, very possible, issue.
Why is Net Neutrality under threat if it’s so great?
Imagine if an ISP could be forced or willingly block or restrict access to an online community or type of content. For example, if the people of a particular country were being oppressed in today’s age they can take to the internet and social media in order to gather support for themselves. In order to prevent this, the internet access of the whole country would have to be shutdown by their own government and as you can imagine, this creates quite the uproar in the international community (This happens more than you might expect, see this page about India as an example which shows 14 partial shutdowns so far in 2017 alone!). However in the absence of Net Neutrality this would be seen as fair game and legally would be completely above board. Even just forcing a slower internet connection to particular sites could seriously harm the revenue it makes and may even silence it completely. This shows the power that could be gained from the abolishing of Net Neutrality. On a smaller and less dramatic scale, the loss of Net Neutrality could mean restrictions to which apps individuals could use, the sites they can access and many more issues for the general public. These latter issues may not seem like much but they have the potential to be Orwellian level privacy issues.
What can be done to help protect the Internet?
In order to help save the Internet you can sign the petition being led by Free Press at savetheinternet.com and even help to spread the word to the people you know, you could even share this post with someone you think might be interested using the share buttons below! Free Press has already lead one charge in order to secure lasting Net Neutrality legislation and by signing the petition you may help to finally finish the fight. At the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to find a reason not to keep the Internet free and open just like the conditions it has been flourishing under for the past decades.