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Prall: Support net neutrality, support equality

BY JACOB PRALL | FEBRUARY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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Through net neutrality, the FCC wants to protect your right to cruise the Internet without corporations slowing you down or shutting you out. Imagine a documentary becomes available on Netflix about some morally reprehensible behavior by a telecommunications company, say, AT&T. Without net neutrality, AT&T could simply shut off your ability to observe that content.

Net neutrality, or the equal treatment of content, allowed for a young Mark Zuckerburg to form Facebook. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, also have net neutrality to thank.

Voices in Congress with telecom backers argue that government intervention hampers innovation. They argue that the government doesn’t belong in this sphere. That telecommunication companies should have the capability of charging for different speeds or content.

The Supreme Court agreed with those voices last January when it struck down the FCC’s net-neutrality proposals. That being said, the last go was hastily thrown together and ill conceived. This proposal incorporates all the legal ground suggested by the Supreme Court. Net neutrality’s fate will be decided Feb. 26.

Without net neutrality, the price of entry for new companies and entrepreneurs would increase dramatically, choking innovation and expansion. It would also give advantage to the massive corporations that can afford the broadband speed. Further, companies such as Verizon and Google have both come out stating that the FCC’s guidelines will not affect their investment strategies.

Telecommunication corporations should not have the power to impose tariffs on data and act as gatekeepers to information. It would be like having to pay to get into the library and then being told how fast you can read, while wealthier patrons get to read at their pace and gloss the premium section.

This isn’t just an economic matter but a matter of social justice.

Technological innovation leads to increased productivity. An increase in that good’s supply decreases the costs. Lower costs give more people access. Electricity gave whoever controlled it the power to illuminate darkness. More electricity was made, and therefore more people could access it.

The web increases the productivity of information. Information and knowledge lead to better lives and better prospects, especially for the disadvantaged or disenfranchised.

Throwing away net neutrality would hurt communities with the least the most. Schools wouldn’t be able to afford being connected; there could be no searching for jobs or posting to sell items online for the jobless and financially insecure.

Net neutrality levels the playing field in a profound way. In our society, wealth is highly concentrated at the very top of the social classes. Without net neutrality, both wealth and information would concentrate there. That is a dystopia.

Fear of government regulation is understandable. In this instance, however, regulation merely means protecting against monopoly. There is plenty of precedent to safeguard against monopoly. Economic stagnation and stifling prospects are two things the US can’t afford.

The economy can’t grow forever; we should look to stabilizing it. Without the power of equal competition on the ground level, small businesses and start-ups would be squashed.


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