We’ve all heard complaints on campus about the ever-failing Internet connection with SecureCanes. The network seems to cut out in the worst possible moments: submitting a test on Blackboard three minutes before the due date, downloading the new track that Kanye West just dropped, or watching the last moments of the “Parks and Recreation” season finale.
For all the complaining about SecureCanes, a lot of students here have surprisingly little input or knowledge when it comes to the recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations upholding net neutrality, a policy that, if struck down, would have had much worse consequences than the inconvenient failures of SecureCanes.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service and wireless providers should treat all Internet traffic the same, without denying or slowing down customers’ access to any particular website.
Though it seems like a fair concept that we can all agree on, net neutrality has sparked fierce debates. Service providers have a vested interest in getting rid of neutrality rules so that they can charge customers and websites for providing adequate access. This would most likely affect our favorite data-intensive websites, including Netflix, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, but it could also affect websites on a smaller scale. Internet providers to UM, for example, may charge more for frequently-visited sites like Blackboard and CaneLink.
Critics say that maintaining net neutrality causes excessive regulation of the industry and intervenes in the healthy function of the free market. However, this argument is supremely hypocritical because net neutrality keeps barriers to entry low so that innovators can easily start new websites without having to bargain with Internet providers just to make their site accessible. Striking down neutrality would actively contradict competitive, capitalist principles and just solidify the monopoly of these Internet providers.
The concentration of Internet service in just a few firms leads to the further concern that not only could providers simply charge more for normal speed but they also could make reciprocal deals, totally eliminating the option for customers to access a particular website with normal speed. For example, Comcast might make a deal that it will provide Netflix with normal speeds to customers while limiting the speed of Hulu, a major competitor.
For the vast majority of American citizens, getting rid of net neutrality would only make their experiences with Internet service worse. The only winners would be the pockets of huge conglomerates like Comcast and Verizon.
So next time you’re complaining about SecureCanes, be sure to think how lucky you are that the FCC upheld net neutrality and held the Pandora’s Box of slow Internet tightly shut.
Annie Cappetta is a freshman majoring in political science.
Featured image courtesy Blaise Alleyne via Flickr