Keep the net neutral

Matthew White

The Internet is something like a large, elusive thread that stitches information and entertainment through our lives.

There’s MapQuest directions, YouTube videos, e-mails and instant messenger conversations; there’s Facebook and MySpace friends, Skype telephone conversations and iTunes and Ruckus music files.

The number of ways our generation uses the Internet is practically unlimited. It’s our primary tool of exploration, education and communication; it’s the way we learn about people we could never meet face-to-face and the way we explore ideas and things far away from home.

You could say the Internet has allowed us to become a generation of Magellans; just as he was the first explorer to enter the Pacific Ocean by cutting through South America, we have become the first generation to enter the digital medium. And I don’t think it’s too much of a risk to say we’re all interested in protecting it.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress are interested in regulating our exploration and restricting our freedom; they’re interested in regulating the flow of the Internet and skewing bandwidth speeds toward corporate, well-known Web sites and away from the smaller, personality-driven Web communities.

And, this is wrong-headed.

It’s important that we support net neutrality, the notion that all legal content on the Internet should stand on equal footing. This is a fundamental issue of fairness; all people should have the freedom to speak on the Web. We all deserve the opportunity to adapt the Web with new, innovative technologies or to adapt the current technologies to our uses.

This is about the freedom to create something new and cool and release it to the world, and it must not be stifled.

Consider what Justine Bateman, a former “Family Ties” actress and current partner in a new, online media venture, recently said to Congress: “The idea of your site succeeding or failing based upon whether or not you paid the telecom companies enough to carry your material or allow quick access is appalling.”

If we follow the path of Internet regulators then we would be hurting freedom of speech because those lacking the money to pay for corporate backing would have their Web sites regulated to the slow-loading, unmapped, dark corners of the Internet. This would essentially amount to a legal requirement making the small guys pay a tax to the big guys simply so they can compete.

Like many other fields, the free market works best on the Internet; it allows us to be innovative and develop new types of technology, and it allows us to adapt the current technology to new uses. But the free market can only exist within the context of freedom. Introducing new regulations onto the Internet will have a chilling effect on the creation of new technologies.

After all the amazing products Internet content creators have dreamed up during the past few years – many of them sitting in dorm rooms – it seems unbelievable that anyone would want to change direction. Less surprising is the fact they’re in Congress.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].