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Net Neutrality

A Beginners Guide to Net Neutrality

With the Internet packed full of net neutrality debate ahead of tomorrow’s (Feb 26th 2015) vote on net neutrality in the USA, it’s important for those who don’t know to get themselves up to speed.

To get outside of the Internet and show you a real world simile: Imagine if your TV only worked with one cable provider, and that you have no option based on your TV which shows you could watch. Right now, you can buy any TV, plug it into the wall, and choose how you want to connect – cable, satellite, even bunny ears, as well as which provider will be selling you this service.

When it comes to the Internet, neutrality has a huge impact on how you can get information in a timely manner. This applies both to how quickly you can access that data, and how easy it is to find.

The net neutrality clashing point

Right now there are two teams going head-to-head over net neutrality:

  1. Those using the Internet as it is now – mostly free for anyone to access any website, allowing no corporations gatekeeper status over anything, and users are free to access this from any provider.
  2. The Walled Garden culture – You only have access to the information and websites provided to you by the corporation you sign up with. You’re walled into a set structure of what you can access, with a whole wealth of information outside.

As you can guess, corporations LOVE option number two, and they have been lobbying for it endlessly. This is essentially what the FCC is voting on – whether the net can remain neutral, or if corporations can exert their control on it directly.

Corporate walled garden philosophy explained

net neutrality on iphoneTo think of the Walled Garden in practical terms, it’s a bit like going into a laundromat and only being allowed to use their soap…unless you pay to use the soap you brought in. This greatly benefits the laundromat as you either have to pay for their soap, or you have to pay to use your own soap – which you already paid for elsewhere!

In business lingo you can call it ‘vertical tying.’ It is already being done in a number of other industries, and yes they’re already driving you up the wall with fees and restrictions. Being sold a cellphone and having it locked to one carrier is the one that most people know all too well. You may recall that the first iPhone was tied to AT&T, and that caused court cases for antirust law breaches.

That examples was over just one little old smartphone, now imagine applying it to the ENTIRE Internet. Ya.

Why ignoring net neutrality is bad

Essentially, every time you wanted to access a different part of the Internet you’d have to get a contract with a whole new provider. And I’m not talking in hypotheticals here, because they’re already trying to shove this through under your nose. Your ISP is a corporation with something to gain in the net neutrality debate, and they’re already throttling your Netflix speeds.

It’s also one of the reasons why more and more people are signing up for VPNs, especially those which get around geoblocks that are a part of net neutrality issues. They allow you to get around geo-blocking, a restrictive practice on a national scale which censors the Internet. My friends in the UK, thinking that their country is free and open, will be shocked to know that they’re having up to 20% of their Internet access blocked!

If this act is carried out to extremes, you’d have to subscribe to one ISP for general Internet use, and another for your Netflix. You’d switch back and forth between them depending on which you want to use – and nowhere in there do you save time, money, or add convenience. All you do is pay more money for the same service.

What is the future of net neutrality

As of this writing I’m following along with developments, and this is very good news for my American friends:

It looks like net neutrality is about to become law in the USA, but there is a big world out there which must still be defended against those who will try to tell us they’re doing us a favor when they take away neutrality.

Every time this debate comes up I want you to think about what it would be like if you had to buy a new TV every time you wanted to switch cable providers. Check out this video if you’re the visual type:

 

Feature image via Bakhtiar Zein / Shutterstock

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