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Net Neutrality & Why It Matters

Levant Technologies on November 22, 2017

Net Neutrality & Why It Matters
Hey Levant Techies! This week, we wanted to reach out to our customers, friends, and family to talk about net neutrality, why it matters, and why losing it can affect the way you use the internet. If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard that the Federal Communications Commission announced their plans to dismantle the net neutrality rules solidified in 2015. 

What is net neutrality? If you’re unfamiliar, it basically means a neutral, open, and free internet. Net neutrality rules prohibit internet service providers like Comcast, Cox, AT&T, etc. from slowing or stopping access to certain websites, and also prohibits them from charging additional fees for services like HD streaming. Net neutrality supports a vision of the internet as we currently understand it: unrestricted and open, where a website like Google can be accessed with the same speed as a local small business site.

The removal of net neutrality has the potential to be the death of the internet as we know it. It not only allows your internet service provider to hinder access to certain websites (for example, the website of their direct competitors), it makes it difficult for tech startups and other small businesses to get a foot in the door. As unlikely as it seems today, Google, Amazon, and Netflix were once small startups. Thanks to an unrestricted internet, they grew into the economic giants we currently know them to be. However, the ability for companies to innovate and compete with existing industry giants will be all but impossible if large telecommunications companies and internet service providers control access to content.

Currently, you pay your internet bill and you have full internet access; it works like a public utility. However, when net neutrality disappears, we’re facing a stratified internet where money equals access. There are many infographics kicking around the internet (like the one above in this post) that show what paying your internet bill could look like without neutrality rules. For example, it would allow an organization like Comcast, who owns NBC, to slow your access to Netflix and boost speeds for its own platform, or content it has a financial stake in. It would also allow your ISP to give you access to certain websites only if you pay for it.  

Make no mistake: this not only has the potential to hinder free and open access to information, but also makes it nearly impossible for small, up-and-coming businesses to compete with tech giants, as large companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others would be gatekeepers for the content we’re allowed to view and consume. Broadband providers will be able to block access to websites, and slow down or speed up services for themselves and business partners. Unrestricted access may still be available, but at substantially higher costs to the consumer. This directly stifles innovation for small companies and only the largest, richest companies could afford this preferential treatment. As a result, we could miss out on the next Google, Netflix, Etsy, or Pinterest because those up-and-coming companies couldn’t grow in the shadow of giant telecom companies.

We think the internet should be a level playing field, and we hope you do too. Here’s what you can do to help:

Call and write your elected officials

You can do it easily through websites like https://www.callmycongress.com/ which allows you to enter your location info to find the contact information for your Senators and Representatives. Voice your support for net neutrality and let them know how you feel.

Your elected officials also have websites where you can write comment, or you can do it the old-fashioned way by putting pen to paper and sending a letter.   

Spread the word! The internet as we know it is counting on you. 

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