Net neutrality is one of the biggest issues with regards to the internet today. At the heart of the issues is how much control ISPs will be allowed to have over their networks. Each candidate has come out with a strong position on the matter, and whoever wins will have a drastic affect on the future of the internet.
Companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want the power to determine the bandwidth speed of websites on their networks. As of now most data is treated equally in terms of bandwidth speed. The companies wish to be able to charge websites money for faster speeds, creating a new revenue stream. This would allow bigger websites to have a crucial advantage over start ups, and it would kill the level playing field we have today.
Net neutrality at its core is about treating all data equally. It essentially means that data discrimination should not be tolerated. The beauty of the internet is that anyone could start up a website that could become the next Google, or Amazon. If the big telecoms are able to pick winners and losers based on who has more money, then the internet will lose that competitive nature.
Barack Obama has been a propenent of Net Neutrality. Under his watch, the FCC has implemented Net Neutrality rules. These restrictions did not apply to wireless networks, though, a gaping loophole that in the future will be problematic as mobile internet is exploding in popularity. The issue is one that needs to be addressed in the future. Until it is, Obama can only be given a barely passing grade in regards to net neutrality.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come down on the other side of the issue. The former Massachusetts governor strongly opposes net neutrality. According to Politico, Romney believes net neutrality will restrict ISPs, and that they alone should govern their networks. The governor has stated that he wants as little regulation of the internet as possible.
Romney’s position falls into the general stereotype that Republicans are pro-business. This is a stance he states outright, as he sides with AT&T and Verizon on the issues, and is in fact working with lobbyists from both companies on the issue.
In general it is a good idea to give businesses freedom to innovate and expand as much as possible. However, regulation also has a place in the market. We have the FDA to make sure the medicine made by drug companies does not harm us, and the EPA to make sure factories are not pumping toxic chemicals into the environment.
While the internet needs to be left as free as possible, it too is in need of some regulation, particularly when it comes to the principle of net neutrality. In this rare case, it is the industry itself that will be the cause of stifled innovation if data discrimination is not stopped. The important thing to remember is that net neutrality has been the way the internet has operated since the beginning, it is not a new concept. The big telecoms are only now trying to change that. Net neutrality aims to keep things as they are, and that should be something every internet user pushes for.