by Philippe Des Rivières
Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram and all of a sudden received a notification from a friend linking you to a post they thought would interest you, but upon clicking on that link you are confronted with the dreaded “Sorry, this content is unavailable” message? Quite annoying, right? Now imagine receiving a similar notification restricting your access to a news article about a natural disaster that has left many dead in your country. You want to read this report to make sure your family is okay, but the only way to access this information is by paying your Internet Service Provider (ISP) an additional fee on top of the small monthly fortune you already pay them. A bit more than annoying at this point, right? Well, I would like to welcome you to a world without the guarantee of net neutrality.
The Internet is a beautiful innovation and reflects the core values of democracy. It has allowed for freedom, creativity, growth, and has given the individual all the power in the world to grow and create change.However, this beauty has now been put at risk, and the power Americans once held has been shifted to the greedy hands of the elite after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in December 2017 to get rid of net neutrality.
You might be asking yourself, “what is net neutrality?”. To answer this one must first understand the basic ideas around how the Internet works.The Internet works similarly as to how a mailing service does. Mail works through the transportation of letters and packages from point A to point B. In the case of the Internet, these are packages of data that are travelling from one point in the network to another.
So, where does net neutrality come into play with this? In Canada, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ensured Canadians with an “open communication system”, ensuring the access we have to the Internet is fair and open. This fairness and openness relates to the speed data packages are transmitted within the network. Net neutrality ensures that all these data packages, regardless of their content, move at equal speeds without allowing the service providers to throttle, slow down, or block the transfer of this data. Seems like a reasonable rule, right?
Well, the FCC thought otherwise and voted against the beautiful openness of the Internet. In doing so taking the power out of the hands of the people, stripping them of their basic rights of online freedom and Internet access, and directly placing the power the individual once had back into the hands of elites.
The FCC dropping net neutrality is a nightmare for us as the general consumers, but a dream come true for the ISPs, giving them even more power in controlling what information we have access to through blocking or slowing access to certain online sites and putting even more of our money in their wallets.
Imagine living your life without being able to surf the Internet freely. How would you have a voice in driving political change through online activity? How would you be able to tweet at Donald Trump telling him building a wall is not necessary? How would you know what restaurant to go to in a new city if accessing Trip Advisor cost more money itself than the dinner you had planned?
These are all things to consider when thinking about what the effects of getting rid of net neutrality could be and why it is so important to keep the Internet fair and open.
The Internet is something that has reflected the core values of democracy by granting everyone a voice and freedom. By governing one’s access and exposure to it, stripping them of their UN declared basic human rights, and putting the power back into the hands of the elite, the elimination of net neutrality is transforming the Internet from a representation of democracy into a place reflective of a totalitarian regime.
The Internet and the guarantee of net neutrality allow for the unheard to be heard, the ones who feel weak to feel powerful, the uneducated to become educated, and for the general public to have the ability to put a check on the power of the elites. But without net neutrality all of this is at risk of disappearing. What we have all grown to know and love over the past twenty-five years faces its greatest threat ever with the questioning of net neutrality.
Why the FCC voted against net neutrality in the US is beyond me, but let us take a step back, Canada. Take advantage of your voice and your Internet freedom, and make sure Canada’s networks stay neutral.