Why Net Neutrality Is The Most Important Issue For This Generation
The Internet has completely revolutionized the way we live. Indeed, it's one of the most innovative and important developments in history.
It has connected the world in unprecedented ways and, like Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, has helped spread information and knowledge at an exceptionally rapid rate.
It's likely difficult for many Millennials to imagine a world without the Internet. Today, we use the Internet for communication, information, entertainment and beyond.
The Internet has also fostered many of the most imaginative companies in recent history. Likewise, social media has dramatically altered the way we interact, and has also become an integral aspect of political discourse.
Correspondingly, we can't forget the multiplicity of ways in which the Internet has fueled entrepreneurship among Millennials.
From Mark Zuckerberg to Evan Spiegel, many of the most successful members of this generation have been catapulted to the top via the World Wide Web. It's been the catalyst for a start-up revolution.
In many ways, the Internet is what has allowed Generation-Y to move forward, despite the numerous obstacles brought on by the Great Recession.
This is precisely why now, more than ever, we need net neutrality. As the generation of the Internet, this is arguably the most important issue for Millennials.
Net neutrality sounds incredibly boring, but it's actually extremely important.
Net neutrality is probably the least sexy issue in politics right now, or as John Oliver puts it:
Net neutrality: The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are, 'Featuring Sting.' And hearing people talk about it is somehow even worse. ...But here's the thing: Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially, it means that all data has to be treated equally... It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.
Oliver is absolute right; net neutrality ensures the Internet remains unfettered by corporate interests.
Without it, Internet service providers (ISPs) can essentially strong-arm certain companies and websites into giving them money for faster Internet access.
This impacts popular sites like Netflix especially, in the sense that ISPs could take notice of its profits and impose fees in exchange for speedier Internet. If Netflix refused to pay, the ISP could conceivably slow down Netflix deliberately until it coughed up.
One might characterize this as a form of digital discrimination.
In other words, without net neutrality ISPs could make binge-watching "House of Cards" much more difficult. This might be beneficial in terms of your addiction to Netflix, but it's bad for the Internet overall.
Net neutrality means ISPs, like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, can't play favorites with content providers, applications and websites. It keeps the Internet open, fair and equal, which is also vital in relation to innovation and entrepreneurship.
If ISPs are allowed to impose fees for better service, or "fast lanes," then tech startups would struggle to compete with major companies like Netflix and Facebook. We need net neutrality to keep things fair and competitive.
It makes sure all content and information is treated equally, which is also imperative in regards to freedom of expression, speech and information.
The government is not trying to control the Internet, it's trying to protect it.
You might be wondering why this is an issue right now. Long story short, for the past several years, it's been at the center of a heated political debate surrounding the FCC and its authority to regulate the Internet.
The divisive issue has come to a head in recent months.
Proponents of net neutrality, represented primarily by President Obama and other Democrats, argue that all content and applications on the Internet should be given equal treatment.
In other words, ISPs shouldn't be able to impose fees on websites in order for them to have faster Internet. They argue that net neutrality is crucial to fostering the development of new companies and ideas.
Opponents of net neutrality contend that the Internet is too convoluted to attempt to regulate it. They're essentially arguing that regulating the Internet stifles both innovation and capitalism.
This position is championed by conservative politicians like Senator Ted Cruz.
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government. — Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Rob Flaherty, Director of Digital Media at the Democratic National Committee, spoke with Elite Daily on the matter and argued in favor of net neutrality. In particular, Flaherty emphasized how important the matter is for Generation-Y, stating:
For a generation focused on innovating, net neutrality protections matter. President Obama's proposal helps to level the playing field so everyone gets an opportunity to create the next great tech start-up. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Republicans are advocating for wealthy, incumbent companies to be able to decide what you get to use the Internet for. Democrats want the Internet to be free and open, while the GOP wants it to run at the speed of your cable company. It really is a shame that Republicans are once again putting the needs of the well-off and well-connected ahead of the needs of Millennials, but at this point, I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise.
In spite of the polarized nature of the debate surrounding this issue, the FCC made a historic ruling in favor of net neutrality on Thursday.
Accordingly, major ISPs will not be able to dictate the direction of the Internet on the basis of their desire for increased profits. Moreover, this means the Internet is now considered a public utility.
As the generation that has taken advantage of the Internet more than any other, Millennials should arguably celebrate this monumental development. It ensures the Internet will continue to be a platform for ingenuity and unadulterated expression.
This isn't the final word on the issue, but it's a massive and important step in the right direction.
Citations: Net Neutrality Prevails In Historic FCC Vote (Huffington Post), The FCCs Net Neutrality Vote Heres What You Need To Know (NPR), Court FCC Cant Enforce Net Neutrality (NPR), What is net neutrality and what does it mean for me (USA Today), At last FCC to vote Thursday on net neutrality rules (USA Today), What the net neutrality battle is really about (CNBC), Forget Dating Apps These Millennials Want to Use Start Ups to Save the World (National Journal), Net neutrality explained (Vox), In Net Neutrality Victory FCC Classifies Broadband Internet Service as a Public Utility (The New York Times)