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Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Net Neutrality is Important to Everyone.

The reason why the internet has gained such a wide appeal across every age, social economic status and cultural boundaries is that it is open and free.  In the early Internet days it was called the Information/Internet superhighway.  The idea came from the image of getting onto the express lane to gaining access to all types of information paving the way for a digital era was knowledge truly was power.  As time passed, it became apparent that some were digitally aware of the new path to information while others struggled behind. This was  either because they did not have computer access or were accustomed to finding information the old tried and true method, such as paper versions of books, magazines and other traditional formats that were deemed "old" fashioned.  Thus came the term "digital divide" which changed the image to a divided highway.  In one direction, those who were computer savvy would benefit from the Information highway, while those who were not went down another path that was lacking in timely information.  In some cases, they received no information at all.  With these two images consider the following picture.  The information highway is no longer free, flowing and allowing anyone able to get on or off where they choose.  Instead,  there are lanes that ISP directs and controls.  In essence a toll booth that will allow the highest payers (website developer and consumers alike) premium speed and selection to go through one lane, and  the lowest payers are in the lane for  slower access and less selection of information sources.  In other words, ISP ( Internet Service Providers) will determine what will be seen, who will see it and how much it will cost to be seen and accessed.  Nothing free and open about this, is there?

The FCC is being pressured by US web companies (Facebook, Google, and Twitter) to keep the Internet an open playing field for everyone involved.  If Internet Service Providers are able to regulate who will be winners and losers on the web then the consumer loses out big time. The cost of information retrieval goes up for everyone.  The extent to how much it hits the wallets of the consumers can not be seen immediately, but the effects will be felt across the board.   More importantly,  the flow of information will be halted along with it the  freedom of expression.  Too dramatic of a picture?  Consider the following questions. What would happen if ATT did not like a webpage that was designed to filter complaints about their services and products?  Would they shut it down?  Or perhaps there are political ideas that big companies would like to promote like Green Energy which would also increase their bottom line because it is tied in with their sales.  Would ISP make  deals with certain companies that only their products and services will be viewed on the net?  The answer to that is if the price is right, of course they will.  

Libraries have always been advocates of free flow of ideas since the very first library.  For anyone who wished to learn more, read more and do more the library became the first "do-it-yourself" institution.  With the internet this bolstered this idea even more so, given that anyone could access information at any given time or place.  Now that the genie is out of the bottle and most of the world's population has had a taste of the free flow of communication and ideas, there are those who want to control it to the point of choking it to death.  This can not and should not happen.   Anyone who uses the internet whether at home, at the library, at work or all of the above is affected.  If the price for information goes up it will reflect in increased property taxes which support libraries and  increased prices for online services.  Not only that, this will develop a new digital divide.  However, this time it won't be because of lack of computer skills or computer equipment.  The evidence that this will be tied to economic status will be difficult to ignore.  Quite frankly, this would be the beginning of the shutdown of a free society. 

While the FCC has to come up with new rules on how the Internet will be regulated, with tomorrow as being the last day to have your voice be  heard.  To be honest, in Washington D.C. money normally speaks the loudest, especially when companies like Time Warner, Verizon, and ATT have lobbyist who on Capital Hill everyday.   Today should be the day that you the consumer get to speak louder then money.  Let FCC chairman Tom Wheeler know through tweets, through Facebook, through email that Net neutrality is important to you.  Why?  As a citizen and consumer you have the right to not only free speech but also reliable access to information.   


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