Imagine a world in which you couldn’t watch your favorite show on Netflix simply because your internet provider didn’t want you to. Well, this world was on its way to becoming a reality until last week when the Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate broadband internet as a public utility thereby safeguarding net neutrality. Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of net neutrality, and what the ruling means for you, your business, and the future of the internet.
The 411 on Net Neutrality
The seemingly innocuous words “net neutrality” don’t exactly get pulses racing. But what if we told you that net neutrality is the only thing standing between you and an internet ruled by telecom giants with the power to determine who gets quick, direct online access to websites and applications and who does not?
While net neutrality guarantees a free flow of internet traffic and communications, lack of net neutrality means a world in which access is largely governed by corporate interests with the power to selectively decide how information is sent and received over the internet. In short, while an open internet promotes free speech, fosters economic opportunities, and fuels innovation for everyone, a closed internet restricts these freedoms for the financial gain of telecom companies.
This was precisely what was at risk until the FCC’s landmark vote to reclassify broadband internet as a telecommunications service, not an information service as previously classified.
What Net Neutrality Means to You
The birth and growth of the internet is inextricably tied with net neutrality, and yet major broadband providers saw an opportunity to leverage access into profits. Without net neutrality, they could manipulate internet access in their favor in a number of different ways, such as by partnering with pay-television interests to champion their own productions or by charging extra for access to external applications and websites.
These kinds of discriminatory business practices are already alive and well elsewhere in the world. Until last week, they also threatened the livelihood of small businesses and investors on the homefront…not to mention the freedom of every American consumer.
Perhaps FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said it best in concluding that net neutrality guarantees that “no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.” On February 26, you enjoyed a monumental victory with the vote to maintain net neutrality…even if you were unaware of the battle happening around you.