Why You Should Care About the Open Internet

photo credit: Mark Coggins via photopin cc

photo credit: Mark Coggins via photopin cc

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down the Open Internet Order. The Open Internet Order was a set of rules put in place by the FCC in late 2010 that, broadly speaking, prevented broadband service providers from bottlenecking the bandwidth available to certain types of content, services and sites, such as Netflix and Youtube. The surface level reason that broadband providers give for wanting those rules gone is that it would allow them to develop different pricing plans for websites and services with high bandwidth demand, as noted in Brian Fung’s blog at The Washington Post.

That rationale, while plausible, is also not the whole story. With the Open Internet Order out of the way, the entire notion of net neutrality goes with it. This opens the door for broadband service providers to decide for you what kind of content you can or can’t look at online, by choking the available bandwidth to sites, content and services your service provider doesn’t like or doesn’t own. That is a thought that should send a chill down everyone’s spine.

Every writer, artist, musician, small business owner and entrepreneur should be squarely and fervently against the loss of net neutrality, regardless of political leanings. While the conservative spin machine will no doubt tout this as a victory over big government overreach and a victory for free market capitalism, it is neither.

The Open Internet Order was an example, though poorly executed, of the government protecting small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs from monopolistic action on the part of massive corporations, such as Verizon.  That is not government overreach, but government acting on behalf of citizens and, ironically, in protection of a real free market system. Net neutrality helps to ensure an, if not level, than more level playing field for new business ideas and services.

Just as important for those engaged in creative activities, such as writing, art and music, the loss of the Open Internet Order sets the stage for an unprecedented level of corporate censorship. Imagine a world in which a corporation can decide whether or not your author website, or band website, or photography website is worthy of receiving bandwidth. Is that a world you want to live in?

The internet is an essential element in business and a true marketplace of ideas. It provides a forum for those without a voice and an infrastructure for innovation. No handful of corporations should be able to exercise the level of control over that forum and infrastructure which the loss of the Open Internet Order now gives them. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for creative expression. It’s bad for freedom.