The Internet has become the fastest growing sector of the global economy, but with more and more business being done on line companies are battling for an edge, and neutrality is getting in the way of unlimited expansion. The five-man Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to end “net neutrality.” This change allows Internet providers to charge businesses for more reliable and faster service, meaning the more money paid the faster the service for customers and companies alike.
Freedom fanatics battled this incorporation of the Internet to protect neutrality and to ensure a future of unfettered information. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider in America, and the web represents the fairgrounds of the dream of prosperity. The end of neutrality could mean the richest 1 percent could control what is seen online and who has access to it. With the decline of an objective media on corporate-controlled television, and the need for real news, this is a drastic setback for liberty.
Small businesses and personal sites may get lost in the fast traffic of online commerce. This gives providers like Comcast and AT&T the power to slow down or even block people who do not abide their price. Advocates have succeeded in the Internet being treated like a utility. Who is to say once they get the power these providers will not raise the rates to stay competitive? Now people will have to sign up for different usage packages that limit their freedom of access on the Internet. These changes make financial discrimination inevitable and censorship capacities are in the hands of a few providers. Those providers’ owners might tell them to pull the plug or block something that reflects poorly on them.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has pledged to prevent behavior that would create on-line “haves” and “have nots.” However, once the power is in the hand of the providers and not the regulators, new terms may quickly develope that define those words in terms of dollars. The Internet has been used to empower and connect people. If that comes with a price tag, a good majority of people in need of a voice will go unheard.
Opponents to this change include CEOs of major service providers. Opponent and Speaker John Boehner has informed Chairman Wheeler that more expensive rules could discourage investment in network infrastructure and cast the industry into legal limbo. Over 100 powerful tech companies, such as Facebook and Google battled for the Internet’s neutrality. Some of the FCC members met with protesters before the vote. Some protesters had been camped out, calling themselves “Occupy the FCC.” The FCC members have offered platitudes of fairness, but the scent of death is on the wind of the cloud.
Spearheaded by the advocacy group, Avaaz, a powerful backlash to this proposal sprang up as it does each time on-line freedom is threatened. IT companies, investors, and activists of all kinds were at the FCC today to make their voice heard in the battle for Internet neutrality. Last month in the European Union, Avaaz led a similar campaign to protect net neutrality. They delivered a 1.1 million-strong petition and hundreds of thousands of email and phone calls to important decision makers. But unfortunately the advocates were not successful in America today.
Opinion by Grace Pollari