Why Net Neutrality Matters

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A free and open Internet is the defining trait of the current Internet culture. Supporters and opponents of Net Neutrality both agree on that. The argument comes over whether or not the government should regulate Net Neutrality or if the free market will solve the problem on its own.

On the figure on the left, one can see the way the Internet currently works. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and many many others cosigned a letter to the FCC about the importance of Net Neutrality.

In the letter, they argued that the current model of Internet has been the key to how countless innovations have come about. The letter, cosigned by 20 major tech companies and over 125 smaller tech companies, emphasized just how essential the free and open Internet is for both innovation and free speech.

“Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users.”

The feelings of these tech companies is strong, and with obvious reason: they wouldn’t exist without this free and open Internet.

nn2 However, if the FCC and government does not implement a wide standing Net Neutrality policy, the Internet could look much more like the diagram to the right. In the case of an Internet not protected by Net Neutrality, the Internet Service Providers would be able to set the terms for Internet speeds.

Although there are certainly some companies that will be able to pay for faster speeds, like Google and Microsoft, these slow-lanes might cripple start-up companies. And although some of these bigger tech companies could afford any charges from ISPs, they still remember their roots were formed during the free and open period of the Internet.

Democratic Senator from Minnesota Al Franken has been one of the biggest advocates of Net Neutrality. In an editorial for the Huffington Post Franken called Net Neutrality as “the most important free speech issue of our time.”

This idea is one that Franken has been fighting for for years. Although Ted Cruz and Barack Obama have only recently weighed in to Net Neutrality fight, Franken has been around this fight for half a decade.

At SXSW in 2011, Franken called on the crowd to call their Representatives and Senators about the Net Neutrality issue.

“Let’s not sell out,” Franken said. “And let’s not let the government sell us out. Let’s fight for net neutrality. Let’s keep Austin weird. Let’s keep the Internet weird. Let’s keep the Internet free.”

Even when Ted Cruz made his recent arguments against Net Neutrality, it wasn’t on the side of ISP regulation. He held an iPhone in the air and said the world needed more innovations like it.

Cruz’s claim is that if the government regulates Net Neutrality, it will inevitably lead to more regulations and hindrances on the Internet.

The only major industries supporting Cruz’s position are telecom companies, who would benefit the most from an Internet without Net Neutrality. Critics have been quick to point out these allies and the amount of money they have donate to Cruz’s campaigns in the past.

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