What Was Net Neutrality?

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Protester for Net Neutrality at rally outside Verizon Wireless in Fresno. Photo by Bob Turner

By Osiris Godwin

Net neutrality seems to be one of those buzzwords that whizzes past us every day. We don’t notice it or pay it much attention; much like a fern in an office, we just assume that it will always just be a fixture in our day-to-day lives.

Like many, you may be asking what exactly is net neutrality? Well, net neutrality is the act of keeping the Internet as a separate entity controlled by no one. This does not mean we do not supervise or interfere if we see something criminally wrong on it.

All net neutrality means is that we cannot limit service or restrict your ability to post freely. This means no governments or corporation can restrict our access to the Web or charge us for using things that take up bandwidth such as Netflix, Facebook, Whatsapp or YouTube.

A quaint description of net neutrality would be to imagine the Internet being a series of interconnected roadways that we pay ISPs (Internet service providers) to maintain and offer unbiased access to. The repeal of net neutrality would mean that ISPs would be allowed to place toll booths (charges) for access to busy roads or for fast lane service while the small businesses of America would be forced to use dirt roads unless they can pay to upgrade.

Sadly, as of Dec. 14, the FCC has strong-armed the repeal of net neutrality. I do not believe that ISPs will be foolhardy enough to enact these avaricious practices until the public has shifted its attention to the next sensational story.

It is important that we do not simply pass this off as another scandal or trendy topic. One way we can do this would be to call your local representative or form a group of like-minded people to build a presence in your community.

Another thing we could do is comply with the will of the free market and make a city- or community-run ISP. This would be difficult but would present a stable way to secure our voices on the Web.

Even if you do not believe that net neutrality will interfere with your everyday life in the short term, it will ultimately affect your life in the long term. The Internet affects every corner of our lives currently from medical professions all the way to agricultural surveys. It also plays a crucial part in transport and even traffic.

Any limits that corporations impose on the Web will stunt the growth of our cities and our infrastructure. An example of this would be the high-speed rail being built through Fresno. The speed rail will undoubtedly bring more traffic in the form of tourists wanting an affordable town to rest in before visiting California’s majestic wildlife.

With nearby tourist hotspots such as Yosemite, if Fresno built a municipally run ISP we could attract programmers and development incubators who would love to have access to our diverse population and lively downtown. So, let’s not let corporations dictate how we use our access to the Internet but rather decide our own lives and fate.

On a more personal note, the reason I am so passionate about net neutrality is the fact that I grew up during its development. I remember being as young as 10 and playing on my family’s first computer fighting with them for use of the phone line (and almost always losing since I was the youngest).

The Internet helped develop my mind and my ability to reason I learned from a young age to keep a budget and work with whatever tools I had on hand. This is something that our youth desperately will need in this world. We need to invest in our youth today so that they will be ready for whatever world they inherit from us.

So, in summary, net neutrality is what gives everyone a fair shot at carving their slice of the American dream from the infinite dimension known as the Internet. It may have been attacked by corrupt and short-sighted men, but we can easily take it back by pulling together and forming our own portal that’s restricted by none. I hope that you share this commentary and spread the word to your friends and family because that will assist our future and reinforce our today.

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Osiris Godwin is a 25-year-old computer programmer who is passionate about all things tech and is attending school to become a biochemical engineer. Contact him at gekkodevs@gmail.com.