Net neutrality has always been a difficult concept for me to understand, and it’s one that keeps coming up in classes I’ve taken this semester. In my Government and Media class we’ve taken a look at net neutrality in terms of First Amendment rights, which is an angle that I’d never considered before. Granted, I’d never considered the issue much at all because it’s always seemed too complicated.
The person who has helped me understand net neutrality the most is – believe it or not – John Oliver. His video on the subject breaks down what can be a complex topic to understand. I feel that if more people were to take the time just to watch that one video they might gain a better understanding of the issue and be more inclined to take an interest in how it would affect them. I remember when various sites like Tumblr and Netflix took a stand against net neutrality and made it so their websites took longer to buffer – since slow loading times are something that could result from the elimination of net neutrality. The websites would then tell users why the sites were loading slowly and provide them with a link where they could learn more about the current situation regarding net neutrality. Some people actually took the time to read about the issue whereas others (myself included) simply got annoyed and decided to wait to use the website until the next day when they knew things would return to normal.
The argument that the Internet should be treated like any other utility makes a lot of sense when trying to understand this issue. The companies that own these utilities should not be able to play “favorites” when it comes to deciding who receives what – in the world of net neutrality this would allow internet service providers to restrict or limit access to web content as they see fit. Restricting the openness of the internet would essentially be a way of regulating freedom of speech, which is something that we as journalists should be particularly concerned about. The internet is a remarkable place where people can come together to share their ideas and opinions freely, regardless of status or affiliations. With net neutrality, these ideas and opinions can all be accessed equally. If fast and slow lanes were created for information, it would be more difficult to access blogs and even things like small independent media sites that aren’t as well-funded/popular. This is a danger to freedom of speech and I definitely think it could be a slippery slope if these rules were to be implemented.