Net Neutrality: What Does It Mean?

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Most have heard about net neutrality. And if you haven’t, open your computer, like, ever. It has a lot of ideas surrounding it, and currently, there is a lot of confusion about what it all really means.

Let’s start by what the internet is all about. Where did it come from? Did it just appear one day? The internet as we know it is a big jumble of many things, and I’ve highlighted three.

From the humanities stand point, it is about cultural diffusion on a level unprecedented in all of human history. The idea that we can share complex ideas from other sides of the globe, it bewilders us. This view can account for parts of the internet such as email, and social media.

From the STEM standpoint, it is about sharing scientific ideas, and computer science. For example, Jim Berner Lee is regarded as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He was inspired by the sharing of physics data while working at the coolest place, like, ever, CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. He is basically responsible for you being able to access websites the way we do, with an address, and how the information is shared.

From a business standpoint, online shopping and trading is revolutionary. Before, you had to live on wall street or have a broker who did if you wanted to be able to trade stocks. Now, it takes the click of a button, and you are able to move trillions of dollars around. This is good, because that means more people are actively involved in the economy. And online shopping has resulted in many giants like Amazon, Ebay, and soon maybe Walmart.

The internet is much like the space station Alpha in the new movie Valerian, It started as a place for people to connect, share ideas, and grow together. Over time, people kept adding on to it, until it became huge.

The list of ways humanity has shaped the internet, and how it shapes us, could go on for eternity. But we have a point to get to, and that is: what is net neutrality?

To get to this big jumble of ideas, you have to go through something called an ISP, or internet service provider. They are the ones who plug you in, allow you to get to it. It’s like, calling on the Valerian reference, the spaceship to get you to Alpha. You can’t float through empty space, you have to have a way to get there.

Now, it is likely that many have not seen Valerian, so I should probably step away from that reference. Instead, lets say the internet is like Indianapolis. To get to one part of the city to another, you have to have some sort of transportation. So lets say ISP’s are like buses. Now, I live in Broadripple. Lets say I wanted to get to Fountain Square. I could take a bus downtown, then to Fountain Square. That’s the idea of the open internet, that anyone can get anywhere equally.

Now, let’s say that Irvington wants more people to go there, so their local business can grow as well. Fountain Square gets all the attention from their over priced duckpin bowling and quite frankly confusing street layout, but Irvington has Jockamo and a pretty cool library. So, they pay the bus system to slow down their buses to Fountain Square. Now, that is just one way to get there, so they also pay the city to lower all the seed limits going into Fountain Square. Now it’s impossible to get into the neighborhood, and people are thinking to themselves, “Boy, Irvington sounds pretty good right now.” For Fountain Square, that would be a pretty bad deal. But, it’s a good thing Irvington can’t do that, because there’s neighborhood neutrality.

But what’s this? Net neutrality has been repealed by the FCC! Now, what does this mean beyond an analogy? Now, ISP’s like Verizon, Comcast and ATT can essentially accept bribes, and slow down your access to certain websites or online services. If ATT were to launch a streaming service, they could slow down Netflix so you would get ATT’s instead. Or, if Google wanted to pick on Bing some more, they could pay Comcast to slow down all Bing searches, so that Google would get more user traffic. And worst case scenario, they could block whole websites in exchange for upgraded packages, essentially holding parts of the internet hostage.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should start putting your number on all your stories on snap. But, it is still an issue for several reasons:

  1. The idea of net neutrality itself, and does it mean we can privatize the internet?
  2. Given that so much of the public was opposed to the repeal, what does that mean for our democracy?

So, we’ve covered what losing net neutrality could mean; big business can sell out yet again, in exchange for bribes from competing websites. But what does that mean on a bigger picture? Let’s look at our definition of democracy, the idea that our government is run by us.

The Athenians are regarded as the creators of democracy, using the form of government to decide on every local matter. They would cast stones to represent their opinion, and majority ruled. But, they had a very small population compared to all of America. The only time we all vote is to decide who will vote for us. This means we have a representative democracy, the idea that we find one person to represent a group of us in government. So, our whole democracy relies on trust, trusting that they will accurately represent our opinions, and that can be pretty risky.

For example, a very controversial figure, the current president, Donald Trump. Whether he liked it or not, he lost the popular vote, as according to the results from ABC news, Hillary won by 2.9 million (A fact I feel comfortable addressing since he has a 35% approval rating). But, we don’t base the presidency on the popular vote, we use the electoral college. This is one example of how representative democracy is used to decide  on issues, and how that may not always result in the best solution.

But, using the very thing under question, the internet, we can get a closer look at what citizens really think. We can use polls to get answer from more people around the world, and do things like sign online petitions as well. It is by using online polls, that we know a June poll from politico showed a 60% support for net neutrality. And, a November poll of registered voters showed 52% support net neutrality, 18% opposed net neutrality, and 29% said they didn’t know or had no opinion.

Not only this, but this has been an issue that has been brought up many times. A famous incident involved late night host John Oliver. In the first season of his HBO series, he did a piece on net neutrality, where he raised his call to action for his viewers, to voice their concern. The result was a movement of people writing in on the FCC website so big, it crashed the site. This was back in May. You can still voice your opinions to the FCC using the link

So given this information, why is that our representatives, who are supposed to uphold our opinions, decided to stray from the trust we placed in them as the public, resulting in a 2-3 vote? Some would argue it was money. In fact, many would argue it was money. That’s because… it was money.

So if an issue such as net neutrality, which doesn’t even put anybody in any real danger, and could be completely left be, can’t be decided on based on what the public wants, then when does it stop? When will it be, that the government will stop listening to us entirely? I know, this all sounds like a lot of propaganda, but stop and think about it, what’s stopping them?