Millennials seem nearly dependent on the Internet. We use it for everything, from research, shopping and entertainment to networking with friends and colleagues.
However, the way we use the Internet may change soon. The Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit struck down Net Neutrality rules made by the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that the FCC does not have the authority to stop Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from selectively blocking or slowing web content.
Following the midterm election, President Obama announced that, in order to preserve net neutrality, the Internet could be made a public utility. Of course, some members of congress are against that; Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the move “Obamacare on the Internet.” Before you make a judgement, here’s information on what net neutrality is how this issue impacts us.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality, also known as Open Internet, refers to the principle that anyone who uses the Internet should have the ability to access websites, download videos, or create their own website, and ISPs have to treat all internet content equally.
What ISPs want is to have some control over the content, and create a two-tiered system where they have a standard set of service, but also a premium internet highway with high speed- for an extra charge.
Tech firms such as Google, internet activists and political figures such as Supreme Court Justice Scalia believe that net neutrality should be preserved. They believe the elimination of net neutrality would prevent consumers from accessing content online. Companies such as Netflix could not deliver high-quality videos and new companies would not be able to afford the fees to have high-speed internet, which puts a damper on a free marketplace.
On the Other Hand...
If ISPs have a tiered system, they would have an incentive to have faster internet speed. Their reasoning is that it’s more fair to ISPs because some content requires more bandwidth and faster internet speeds, which can be expensive for them.
Joshua Steimle, who writes for Forbes, believes that the end of net neutrality would allow new companies to offer better internet speeds at lower prices. He, among others, believes government regulation hurts the consumer and protects existing monopolies.
What About Us?
Net neutrality impacts Millennials because we’re so reliant on the Internet. While there are concerns that ISPs will not have any incentive to improve their service, the greater harm would be to new, small businesses and could the end of net neutrality could potentially lead to censorship. In fact, many ISPs have already abused their power and censored content on the Internet repeatedly.
Steimle is wrong because government regulation, in this case, can work. In Brazil, they established net neutrality with the condition that libelous content must be removed at the request of the government. Brazil also barred telecommunication companies from charging higher prices for downloads that required faster internet.
Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the internet, praised the law as a great compromise that decentralizes the Internet and maintains the rights of corporations and governments.
In short, Millennials should support of net neutrality in order to protect our rights as consumers and entrepreneurs.
The Internet is an opportunity for our generation to spread ideas and to create change. If our Internet access is slowed or restricted in favor “premium users,” it will prevent us from being what we really are: digital natives.