The Battle for the Net
You’ve probably heard that net neutrality is under attack from the FCC. Over the next weekish, a number of websites will be engaged in a campaign to lobby the Senate to block the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. As a supporter of an open internet, I have decided to participate in this campaign.
Many of the arguments around net neutrality on both sides of the discussion tend to focus on business objectives.
Proponents argue that the open internet allows start ups to grow unhindered by fees that would hypothetically be put in place by ISPs. If the start up wouldn’t or couldn’t pay the fee, they would have to suffer slower bandwidth, or perhaps be blocked entirely.
Opponents argue that net neutrality has stifled innovation by ISPs. This argument relies on data that shows that investment into infrastructure has gone down since net neutrality rules were put into place. The theory is that if the rule were lifted, those investments would return.
There are certainly other arguments for and against net neutrality, but those are the two that seem to get bandied about the most. My guess is that it’s because both of them seem to have concrete, real world implications. But I think that there’s a more important discussion to be had.
Revoking net neutrality threatens our First Amendment right to freedom of the press.
As more and more corporations merge to form conglomerates, it’s more and more likely that the content creators - for example, news organizations - will be bought by or sold to the content conveyors - the ISPs. The AT&T merger with Time Warner is a current example of such a merger. When considering this merger in conjunction with the loss of net neutrality, there are two important things to keep in mind:
- CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting, which is owned by Time Warner.
- Internet Providers such as ISP now have the right to block competitor content simply because it is competitor content.
This means that AT&T could block all of the other major news networks, forcing their customers to get their news primarily from CNN.
I’m only picking on AT&T and CNN because their merger is currently in the news. There are rumors about Comcast attempting to acquire Fox as well. It doesn’t even take a merger to create this problem. An ISP could create a fast lane and a slow lane, default everyone to the slow lane, and sign fast lane contracts that are exclusive within their niche, e.g., only one news organization gets into the ISP’s fast lane, only one streaming TV service, etc.
What’s worse, because ISPs are public utilities, and public utilities are considered to be natural monopolies, they are allowed by government regulations to control geographic regions. Many consumers don’t have the option to simply take their business elsewhere if they don’t like their provider blocking news sources. They’re stuck with whatever their ISP chooses, whether it’s good for them or not.
As a citizen of the free world, this is of great concern to me and, I hope, to you as well. This is why, despite the very low volume of traffic on this site, I’ve decided to join in this fight. I want to do every little bit to help that I can.
Please forgive me for the intrusion of the banner. I realize that it’s annoying. I also realize that you may have closed it already. If you have, please go to www.battleforthenet.com and tell your Congressional Representative that you support net neutrality and that you’d like them to do the same.