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Prall: Web in the fast lane

BY JACOB PRALL | NOVEMBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Net neutrality may be a term you’ve heard thrown around in the past few months. Here’s a little context. Net neutrality refers to the principle of keeping Internet access free of artificial manipulation by ISP and telecom companies. The debate centers on Internet providers wishing to create fast and slow lanes, giving faster access to those who can afford it while intentionally slowing others.

The problem with this is well summed up by President Obama during a recent address to the FCC in regards to its plans of future regulation. “An open Internet is essential to the American economy and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.”

This issue has created a lot of unrest in the Internet community. Not surprisingly, as many have their way of life in jeopardy. Sen. Ted Cruz has come out openly for fast and slow lanes, arguing the government shouldn’t have a place in regulating Internet access. This is a rhetoric that, in theory, sounds reasonable. Pick it apart, though, and blatant flaws are abundant.

First, systems such as the Internet are ripe for monopolization. Without the U.S. government, AT&T never would have split up. Neither would Microsoft have been allowed to. The telecommunications industry was prone to monopolization, and monopolies lead to market failures.

If the wealthy are allowed faster, better access to what we consider a public good, the elite of U.S. society will have an advantage in the spread and management of information, both public and private. The American elites don’t need another way to suppress the majority of the nation.

Obama puts together the argument for net neutrality very well in his little sound bite. As governments and corporations have increasing technology to control, deter, or influence the American public, the Internet acts as a counterweight. It gives the marginalized a chance to have a voice. The current system is an incredible incentive for new business and technology. Republicans argue government regulation decreases economic output. That blanket idea ignores when regulation keeps markets open and free.

Markets are inefficient because people are. Government regulation is needed; there is no doubt, the extent of which is what becomes debated. Don’t let this become an issue of politics. This is about freedom, democracy, enterprise, and community. Net neutrality is too important to be discarded in an age in which the Internet is the last line of defense against tyrannies of government, corporations, and individuals.


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