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Net Neutrality: The end of internet freedom
The internet has been one of the greatest technological advances ever seen in the last 40 years. It has opened the doors to many new advances in many other fields and has changed the way the world works today. Now, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the government have decided that they need to regulate it. In theory, the regulation they would like to put in place seems like a good idea. The regulation they are putting in place is called net neutrality and it is supposed to do three things. The three things that net neutrality aims to do is no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. These all seem like good ideas and they are, the only problem is what must be sacrificed in order for the government to ensure these regulations are enforced. Net Neutrality laws should be removed so the internet can continue to grow.
The first new rule of Net Neutrality is no blocking. According to CNET, this means that the ISP (Internet Service Provider) cannot block access of any legal content, services, or applications. The key here is what does the government consider legal. People would be surprised how much of what they view online each day may not be considered legal by the government. Another problem with the government blocking access to these certain website and services is that in order for them to block someone from visiting an illegal site or service, they must be monitoring them all the time. If someone is not being monitored, they could just as easily visit that site or service as they could before. So, by making strict new rules to block any illegal content, the FCC will always be monitoring everything that everyone is doing online. This will give the government a whole new level of access to peoples’ personal lives and nothing will be completely private anymore. Another common happening today is networks and systems being hacked (Science Alert). This requires very fast implementation of new security methods and protocols to prevent mass hacking. So, what happens when the government is going to be involved with the ISP’s? Every time an ISP needs to do a network update, it will likely need to be approved by the government first in order to make sure that it is still complying with the no blocking rules. That way, an ISP could not secretly start blocking a service without the FCC being aware of it. As can be demonstrated by how fast and efficient a post office works, the government is not very fast in what it does, this means that if a new network vulnerability is found, it is possible that in the time it takes for the government to look over and approve the update, a hacker or group of hackers could have already hacked into the network and start stealing information from millions of people. How could this be improved? The answer is no blocking, period. ISP’s simply do not need to block any content of any kind unless their own system detects that it is a threat. Using this method, it would allow all content to be available to everyone just as most people are used to now. However, with an automated threat detector, it would make the internet safer as well and less vulnerable to viruses and other hacking threats. This is basically how the internet works right now. Essentially, the government does not need to fix what is not broken already.
Nonetheless, the government does not want things to be that simple. The reasoning behind their no blocking policy is not to protect people from the big evil internet service providers, but rather it is so that no one is downloading or viewing anything illegal (Wired). Otherwise, the government would have little interest in the no blocking policy. This is simply a way for them to get their foot in the door to block people from doing anything they determine to be illegal on the internet. Here are some examples of illegal things that most people do every day on the internet and don’t even realize its illegal. For examples, it is illegal to fake a name online, it is illegal to use ad blocking software, and it is illegal to save pictures from the internet because they are someone else’s property. People view lots of illegal content on YouTube all the time and one of the more ridiculous things that is illegal to do online is to post anyone singing happy birthday because it is a copyrighted song. If this rule of Net Neutrality were to be kept, many of the freedoms that people are able to experience online today would be gone. No more happy birthday videos on YouTube.
The next rule that Net Neutrality will enforce is no throttling. This means that ISP’s cannot slow down or speed up certain services as long as they are legal (USA Today). This comes back again to the issue of what does the government consider legal on the internet. The real point here, though, is that an ISP should not be able to slow down a certain service because they use a lot of bandwidth or if they are providing content that the ISP does not agree with. An example of this throttling happening is if someone were trying to view content on a competitor of the ISP that someone is currently subscribed to. So, if someone on Comcast’s network was trying to view a news story on a website other than NBC (Comcast owns NBC), it is possible that Comcast could throttle them because they are viewing content on a competing news network site. This is where the idea of no throttling is a very good idea, it is not right for one company to throttle data to impair access to a competitor. However, there is one perspective of throttling that the government does not take into consideration. In some instances, throttling ensures that many people are not impeded by the usage of the few. In other words, a few people could be hogging tons of available bandwidth to access a media intensive site or service while everyone else ends up with reduced speeds and network reliability while they try and do less bandwidth intensive tasks. This has been becoming less of an issue as ISP’s continue to invest in their infrastructure and try to improve total available bandwidth so that more people can be accessing more content at the same time. An example of throttling being necessary, however, was demonstrated when an app on Android became very popular and everyone was using it to communicate, which caused a massive bandwidth problem over the T-Mobile network. In order to keep the network stable so that everyone could still use it in some capacity, T-Mobile had to throttle the users who were using the communication app. In this case, the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. It’s cases like these where throttling can be a necessity in order to maintain network integrity.
Netflix has often been the victim of throttling. Almost one third of the internet traffic, today, is from people streaming Netflix (Time). Most networks now have the capability to allow for that. However, a few years ago, when Netflix was starting to become big, this was quite a strain on the current networks and in many cases people would get stuck with buffering because the ISP’s were having to throttle Netflix in order to keep the network in working order. Throttling is a self-solving problem in many ways. If people complain that a service they like is being throttled, then the ISP will have to make improvements to handle the additional traffic and this leads to network improvements and an overall better service. The part that can be an issue is when an ISP tries to throttle a competitor, which is when Net Neutrality could be good. However, this problem as well can be self-solving. If someone is trying to view something from a competitor of the ISP and they keep getting throttled, they will either complain or they will switch ISP’s. This will then force the ISP to stop throttling that site or they will lose customers. So, once again, the problem solves itself without the government needing to intervene.
The third rule of Net Neutrality is no paid prioritization. This is meant to prevent any ISP from favoring some legal traffic over other legal traffic that has paid them (Wired). This is often referred to as “no fast lanes.” The best way to look at this is to think of a highway. Say there are eight lanes to this highway and the speed limit is the same for six of the lanes. However, two of the lanes have a higher speed limit and have less traffic, but they require a toll to use them. This is basically what some ISPs have been doing. They will charge certain companies to use these faster and less congested lanes so that their service is better. The idea behind this third rule of Net Neutrality is that no one gets access to fast lanes and everyone has equal access to everything. In theory, this is a great idea, but the problem here is similar to the problem with the second Net Neutrality rule. If one service is using most of the bandwidth, they should have to pay a premium to be a drain on the network. When a massive bandwidth using company like Netflix is being used on a network, it is a huge drain on the network and it requires often expensive upgrades to be made in order to handle that new bandwidth demand. These upgrade costs are partly due to the fact that the bandwidth hog is impeding the networks performance, so they should have to pay a premium for a fast lane so that it can offset the cost of network upgrades. This also allows the network to advance and overall advance the way the internet is used. When a new company comes around and starts putting a strain on the network, this makes it so the network needs to be upgraded in order to handle it which leads to an overall better network. If there is no paid prioritization, then ISP’s may not be able to justify the costs associated with making network improvements and then that will lead to an even worse service overall. Thus, the third rule of Net neutrality is also a bad idea as it will cause the US to fall even farther behind in average internet speeds around the globe.
Those were the three main points that the government highlights about Net Neutrality and about how great it is, but what are they hiding? One key detail that they never want to mention to anyone is the fact that they will have control over how the internet is run. They are trying to stop ISP’s from regulating the internet by regulating it themselves. The government isn’t exactly well known for providing great regulations, generally they are tedious and time consuming and ultimately pointless. Why should the internet have to move at the same pace as the government? It has cost taxpayers over two billion dollars so far to make the government run healthcare website work, and it still doesn’t work properly. From the beginning to the very end of the enrollment period for the healthcare website, it was having tons of problems. Constantly freezing and glutting and kicking people off the server. The same people that developed this system now want to be in charge of how the internet is regulated and run. It would be only a matter of time before the government wants to further tighten its grip on how the internet is regulated and run. Before too long, they may end up being completely in charge of how the internet works and that will lead to disaster. The internet today is by no means perfect. However, the last thing it needs is a bunch of incompetent politicians in charge of how it works. These are all things that the Net Neutrality bill will secretly allow. Therefore, it was enacted without a proper vote even being taken, it was just suddenly put into place, a bill that as over 300 pages was put into place without anyone even having time to read it. Essentially, it was put into action without anyone even knowing what it all really entailed.
A huge right that will be infringed upon by Net Neutrality is everyone’s own right to privacy. Part of the Net Neutrality act allows the government to monitor internet activity. The NSA is a part of the government which allows the NSA to view every bit of activity from everyone on the internet. No one will have any privacy from the government anymore. Any time someone looks at anything on the internet, the NSA can find out about it. This is a huge infringement on a right to privacy from the government. The government knows enough about the citizens of the United States, they don’t need to know what size cloths someone wears or that somebody is very interested in funny cat videos. This is just giving the government more control over what people do every day and not allowing them to feel like what they are doing is somewhat private. The argument to this is that once something is on the internet, it never goes away, and anyone can have access to it. That is true, however, with the government monitoring everyone’s activity, it makes it just that much easier for them to keep tabs on people. The other fact is that while what someone posts to the internet is no secret, what they are doing on the internet can still be unknown to many. With the government able to monitor activity through ISP’s, nothing that is done over the internet anymore is private. The government could start monitoring if someone is selling lots of their things on Craigslist and could then audit them if they did not report their profits on their taxes. Technically, profit made even from selling items can be taxed. This will simply reduce the freedom on the internet even more. It’s all just a step closer to complete government control over what everyone does everywhere.
In the end, the government is ultimately enacting these new Net Neutrality rules, so they can gain more control over people on the internet. It will give them a whole new level of access and control over everything that everyone is doing. The no blocking policy allows them to control what is displayed on the internet by not blocking things that are legal, but making sure anything they consider illegal is blocked. The no throttling policy will make it so that everyone has an equal playing ground. This will make sure that things people want to be faster are not simply in order to make it equal for everyone. Lastly, not having the paid prioritization could cause the ISP’s to not get enough money to continue making important network improvements that make the internet an overall better place. The government is going to end up holding back the internet and will slow down its evolution. If the government had been in charge of the internet from the beginning, it would be nowhere near as powerful as it is today. E-Mail probably never would have come into existence because it would compete with the Post Office, making the Post Office less profitable. The way the very world today works could have been changed if the government had been in charge from the beginning. Hopefully, in the future, the Net Neutrality laws will be repealed to help the internet grow, not the government. So far, seven ISP’s have filed lawsuits against it, so it is likely that more ISP’s will join together to help ensure that the internet will not become crippled by the government. The government needs the internet, the internet does not need the government.
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