Net Neutrality: The Good, The Bad, And The Confusing

By Paul Maslany | July 18, 2017 at 12:30 PM

[Edited July 21, 2017 at 01:00 PM]

Like everyone else, I saw the headlines, and read about it maybe once or twice. Prior to current events I didn’t really understand what Net Neutrality meant, or why the government would want to “kill it,” as media and activists had quite often been putting it lately.  After I researched it, and read many of the articles, I wasn’t surprised to find that for the last 10 plus years the FCC seemed to be just as confused on their stance on Net Neutrality as I seem to be, going back and forth over the years; both for and against it.  It’s obvious the new administration and political climate has something to do with the recent flip-flopping, but it seems to me they were confused long before Donald J. Trump was even a contender for The White House.

Every aspect, every article about this thing has me scratching my head. For months all the headlines were about possible pre-election collusion between President Trump and the Russian government. Even though President Trump is the one who is allegedly trying to kill the "Open Internet" (another name for Net Neutrality), there have been thousands of messages pouring in from Russia since Net Neutrality Day on the 12th of July, 2017, this past Wednesday. That was the day my attention was caught by these headlines again.

After researching both sides to this issue, I have to say I’m a bit torn. I’m leaving my political affiliation out of this, which is honestly a weak affiliation, if even an affiliation at all anyway. I’m more of a center independant, if I could call myself such a thing. I am more neutral, and rather than being either a Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, I like a politically-centered green party slash libertarian hybrid. I understand that some things such as dangerous materials or other public safety related concerns need to be, and should be, regulated by the government. All that being said, I am against almost any forms of government regulation, as a general rule. So when you tell me the government wants to regulate the internet, to monitor all the providers and companies and all their customers' traffic, it makes me a little nervous. Thats a lot of data we are giving them access to, and by forcing everyone’s hands it will destroy any chance of a free market driven by people's decisions in that market. We should be letting consumers dictate the terms of what content gets boosted or slowed down as capitalists in a free market place. Now I am being told we need to let the government dictate them, which is not the American way.

As far as I can tell, Net Neutrality FCC regulations weren’t actually in effect until 2010. The internet seemed to work just fine prior to that, and apparently that was when these big companies like AT&T could control the flow of data, and dictate the terms of what we see and how we see it. Well, that never really was a thing, was it? All indications also show that the providers and companies involved at all levels were actually more likely to break rules or bend them to get better rates to the consumers, not to take advantage of them. To play devil's advocates, there are some cases that are exactly what Net Neutrality supporters fear to happen more often. My answer to that is, as in any case, the few exceptions cannot be the rule.

Part of the problem that has me concerned is that recently, things seem to be swinging the other way, the way that the supporters of Net Neutrality have been saying it would where it's become more than just a few exceptions. More and more companies are spending less on broadband investment, and implementing other risque practices that seem to be more appropriate in the European Marketplace than in an American one.  It seems that although Net Neutrality-type regulations weren't required prior to 2015 in order for the internet access industry to remain an open and competitive market. Our freedom to choose which providers and which services we wish to be provided, our basic internet freedom, could be at risk. But now it seems that it’s not enough now for us to expect the market to regulate itself. The argument for internet access to be considered as a utility, while it's not the most ideal solution in my opinion, might in this case be the best most viable option to regulate such an important thing as internet access. At least until something better presents itself, or the issue evolves as such that some change to those regulations is warranted.

According to statistics in the whole country, fly-over states included, It’s gotten to the point where 89% of the country has access to only one or two options for broadband, and one is almost always much slower than the other. Companies have gotten the marketplace, and the system, to exactly where they want it. They are trying to control the internet indirectly, not by controlling the actual internet, or the content, the apps, the data, but by controlling your access to it, or speed of access as it were. By killing FCC regulations forcing the providers to offer the same speeds across the board what we’re doing essentially is putting the internet at risk.

It may be that my instincts as a strong believer in following traditional American values, like less government regulations, have clouded my view in the beginning, but now I think I see things more clearly. The internet was unprecedented before its time. It does need to be treated and protected like a utility, and if it takes government oversight and regulation to ensure that, then so be it.

The catch is, if we don’t trust or want the government controlling our data traffic, then we need to ask ourselves why we elected people we don't trust in the first place. However, our broken political system is a blog for another day. Though it IS on us, on ALL of us, to use our votes to make that change That is the REAL American legacy, our democracy, and If we've lost faith in that, we might have bigger problems than Net Neutrality regulations.

Sometimes we need to change, or accept changes, if we actually want to keep things the way they were, or the way they’re supposed to be, such as the internet. It should be free, open, and equal, like all things in this country. and it's the American thing to do to ensure that it stays that way, and out of the hands of greedy corporations seeking to build a monopoly.

Jennifer Doebler