It Came from the Internet!!

January 24, 2008

There has been much talk recently of our beloved “highway” of information becoming a network of private access toll roads. Not only would we be paying more for it, we would also be forced to follow a set path without the freedoms of seeing what we want and when we want to see it. The destination remains the same though, which is why a tiered Internet would be a bad idea.

The whole structure of the web was originally developed to allow users of any age, sex, race, financial status, whatever to access the same information. As long as you have a computer and an Internet connection, you are allowed to search for whatever your little heart desires. Now whether that is looking up the latest sports scores or pornography, everyone has the ability to do whatever they would like with the Internet.

A recent trend however seems to address the freedoms we’ve long enjoyed. China’s recent Internet boom provides a good example of some of the side effects of a tiered system. Google blocks certain websites from ever being accessed by users in that country, based purely on what the government deems inappropriate. Imagine if we weren’t allowed to read about a recent celebrity’s death, for the reason that he starred in a movie dealing with homosexuality. Fred Phelps, a beloved fellow Kansan (*rolls eyes*), has already stated he will picket Heath Ledger’s funeral following these same ideals. The idea of allowing data access to be “filtered” through some unknown entity whom you pay money to for a faster connection.

As you can already tell, I’m against a tiered Internet. It gives ISPs too much control over the content available to us, as well as charging us more for less. It would also allow them to advertise and give preferential treatment to their own media (AOL Time Warner, I’m looking at you).

Network neutrality, which is what we have now with no tiers, would allow a non-discriminatory way for users to experience the Internet. Quality of service is a common argument against network neutrality, when in actuality it works both ways. With a tiered system, we may pay more for some special features that add functionality to accessing the Internet. We should, however, be allowed to choose whether we want to have these extra tools to use. Most people would just like to check their email and news sites anyways; no bells & whistles required.

Opponents of network neutrality say that it discourages investors in broadband companies. Having these regulations would ultimately inhibit growth of the dynamic environment we currently experience and wouldn’t benefit anyone.

With the way things are set up now, the Internet is “a level playing field.” It allows the best ideas to be heard rather than the most well-funded. Users pay more for faster connections, but the differing costs are relatively fair and not so much a problem (with most providers anyways).

Ultimately, the benefits of network neutrality outweigh the bad in my opinion. If the Internet was suddenly transformed into a tiered system tomorrow, there would be riots and boycotts in the streets. Networking is an exciting beast right now and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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