Net Neutrality is the issue that will never die. Lately we have been hearing a lot about what has been going on with Net Neutrality with the recent decisions to allow ISPs to charge companies that deliver online services extra money to be able to deliver those services to customers who are paying the ISPs to provide Internet services that they can choose how to use. Today I saw a video posted by Felicia Day created by YouTuber ViHart explaining the history of Net Neutrality and what they see as the problem with what is being presented.
The biggest thing that doesn’t make sense to me about this is that it is bad business. I doubt the online services appreciate what the ISPs are trying to do and if there is another option people will take it. It just makes customers resentful and begging for something else to come along or to have the government create more regulations. I really liked ViHart’s comparison of ordering a book and paying for the two day delivery, but the delivery truck deciding it has too much business so will only deliver one book instead of two in the time agreed upon. It just doesn’t make sense. In some ways why are the ISPs not trying to make what they can offer better? Could it be because they have a monopoly and that there is not a good way for anyone to come into the playing field?
ISPs as Common Carriers
One of the big questions that I think needs to be answered is, “are ISPs common carriers?” In the video ViHart mentions bus service, airplanes, and telephones as common carriers. This also includes public utilities. I had never really known what the term common carrier meant, I just knew that if I wanted utilities for example I had to find out who serviced the area and call them up to get the various services turned on. I am also pretty sure that they cannot refuse me service, they have to charge at a rate as specified under certain regulations and that they cannot make arbitrary changes to charges in their service. Now the regulations and changes to the service are more with utilities and telecommunications than other common carriers. In many ways we have viewed ISPs as a common carrier and the problem is that the way our world functions is based on this assumption. If this idea is no longer true then everything that has been built around this idea could fade away.
Internet as Place of Ideas
I think one of the biggest arguments for ISPs as common carriers is the access to knowledge. I understand that books exist, but how many people are making encyclopedias anymore? So much of our collective knowledge is being digitized and being made available online. What happens when that knowledge becomes less accessible or if ISPs can choose which knowledge is more accessible than others? I think this is what scares me the most about what has been happening around getting rid of Net Neutrality. The freedom of information is a blessing and a curse that the Internet has provided. Everyone has a voice online and has the ability to reach an audience. Think of all of the movements that we have had in the last decade that have happened because of the Internet. I just think it would be sad if the open forum ability gets stunted.
Honestly I am not 100% sure of anything. Nothing is simple and there is so much baggage with all of it. The problem is the history of the situation I think just keeps compounding the problems. It also can feel like there is nothing that we can do, I think that is also seen in our voting statistics. There is a lot more I could say on this and the problem is there is so much more you can say. It is not an easy issue to understand, but I think it is important to keep the dialogue going.