Initially Net Neutrality sounds like a simple issue, but as soon as you just attempt to define it the simplicity begins to fade away. Quite simply, the Internet began free and the question is, should continue to be free. I say yes as a confirmed capitalist who normally is a staunch proponent of an individuals right to charge for their services. This case however is different.
1. The Internet has become a platform for free speech.
The inventors of the Internet could not have anticipated the impact it would have, even more revolutionary than the printing press, because of the low cost of entry the Internet has provided a platform for free speech that allows individuals to speak and be heard. No longer do media companies or governments control what you hear. The Arab Spring was perhaps our first glimpse of what free-speach and the Internet can accomplish, but it won’t be the last. Unless we start down this road of restriction, our first steps today will define our next move and the move after that. Will it be to regulate access, or to protect free speech? Our Constitution protects the freedom of the press for exactly the same reason we must protect the freedom of the Internet.
2. The Internet is a gateway for innovation.
In addition to free speech, the Internet has allowed for collaboration and the free exchange of ideas which in-turn spark inspiration and innovation. Allowing a novice inventor to produce the “next big thing” solving a problem, providing a service, creating jobs, and inspiring the next round of innovation. Tiered access to the Internet will favor large corporations and raise the cost of entry for the individual. Regulation and limits will impact the economy in ways we will never know, because it will stifle innovation when it locks out innovators.
3. Regulated access will favor governments and large corporations at the expense of the individual.
Tiered access seems fair on the surface, but think of it this way. I recently bought stock in Netflix. At the time many investors were concerned that if Netflix had to pay for the huge load it has put on many networks it’s bottom line would be hurt. After all, more expense equals less profit, right? Yes it does, but there’s more to the story. Netflix can afford to pay for tiered access. This increase in cost today will block tomorrow’s startup from ever competing with Netflix. A regulated Internet will stifle competition and protect large corporations at the expense of the people, who will ultimately pay for the cost of this regulation.
The very fact that the FCC has been brought into this issue should be proof enough that the rights of the individual must be protected. That is the purpose of government agencies after all, to serve its citizens. The best course of action is clearly to protect free and unencumbered access to the Internet for all citizens. What may seem like a decision about how business is conducted is in actuality much more, it’s a decision about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America and across the globe. Please think of the citizens you serve and limit the restrictions you put on their lives and free speech.