What Is Net Neutrality and Why Is It Important?

Free and open. These are the guiding principles of the Internet as it was conceived many years ago, and as it mostly remains to this day. The freeness and openness of the Internet is what gave birth to Netflix, Google, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, Facebook … really anything you love about the internet, almost everything you access daily on the internet, everything you see and read and share is probably the result of the level competitive playing field that is the open and free internet. That openness and freeness is due to a concept called net neutrality.

In essence net neutrality means that no company or entity can impede what you want to access when you browse the web. The company that delivers Internet accesses to you, whether to your laptop, or phone, or iPad, must treat all content exactly the same. From Wikipedia articles, to Buzzfeed quizzes, to corporate about pages, left wing media, right wing media, and mainstream media, Netflix, or Hulu, or YouTube, every bit and byte must be delivered to you on equal terms. With net neutrality in place no one gets to choose or obstruct what you want to see.

However, some Internet Service Providers (usually the ones that are also TV service providers) hate this idea. You are almost certainly familiar with how your TV subscription works. You pay a little bit for the basics, a little bit more for the things you want to see often: sports, movies, genre channels, and other niche entertainment, and you pay even more for premier channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, all access NFL, MLB, NHL, or soccer. Effectively, TV providers act as gatekeepers and chop of each finger and toe and arm and leg before you get what you want. And they just can’t wait to do the same thing to the Internet.

You want to check out YouTube videos? That will be an extra $5 a month. Netflix? Make it $10. Our competitor’s content? Lucky for you that is in the unrestricted “premium” package for a low monthly price of $55. Of course that is on top of our “basic”, “social media”, and “entertainment” packages. And if you’d like to view it all without incessant buffering you can add in our “speed boost” service for another $25 a month. If you think your Internet subscription is obnoxiously expensive now – and it is – just wait until net neutrality is done in. For a quick visual of what the above net neutrally free version of the Internet would look like, check out The Open Internet.

So why should you care? Quite simply, because it is your hard earned money on the line. If you are ridiculously wealthy or if your hobby is putting money in a trashcan and lighting it on fire, then protecting net neutrally has nothing to offer you. If on the other hand you invest in the stock market, work in any industry even remotely connected to technology, love using the Internet to watch movies, chat with friends, post pictures of your baby, puppy, kitten, coffee cup, or favorite cactus on Facebook, and don’t want to spend twice what you currently do for the privilege, then protecting net neutrality is 100% in your interests.

There are other reasons that protecting net neutrality is important. There are ideological reasons, political reasons, human rights reasons, and business reasons. At the end of the day though, money talks loudest, and your pocket book is going to be screaming at you if net neutrality crumbles.

What can you do to protect the free and open Internet? (If you wonder if it needs protecting, give “net neutrality” a quick Google.) First, be informed. Inform your friends. Share this post. If you have some cash to burn, give $1, or $2, or $10 to Save The Internet, or the Electronic Frontier Foundation. If you are really concerned, and I hope you are, then give some serious consideration to calling your elected representatives, and politely telling them how much you like net neutrality. Not sure who represents you. No worries, WhoIsMyRepresentative has got you covered, just type in your zip code.

Whether you are young or old, conservative, liberal, socialist, or libertarian, rich, poor, or middle class, CEO, or entry level dreamer, technophile, or afternoon Facebook browser, net neutrality protects your freedom to use the internet however you wish and without any outside entity putting up roadblocks to that content. In short, net neutrality keeps the Internet working for you and the millions of people innovating every day to make your world and mine a tiny bit better. So please, take a moment, share, donate, or call to keep our Internet free and open.

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