Net neutrality vital to keeping the Internet free

Ryan Taylor, Opinion Writer

Every day millions of people log on to the Internet. Among these millions are college students who access the Internet in order to complete assignments or just to take a break from their academics.

Net neutrality affects everyone online, whether they produce or consume content, and this generation is full of producers and consumers of digital content. The problem is that not many people know what it is.

UWO student Taylor Miller said she is unsure of what net neutrality means.

“When I hear the phrase net neutrality, I have no thoughts that come to my mind because I have no idea what it is in anyway,” Miller said. “The phrase sounds important, and I should probably look into it, but as of right now I have no idea what it is.”

Net neutrality is the idea that all online content can be accessed on a nondiscriminatory basis.

This means that Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, can’t charge content providers for speedier delivery of their content or limit what is accessible.

Without net neutrality people would be required to pay a fee to their ISP for basic internet services. There would be nothing stopping the ISP from turning around and charging a premium fee for additional services such as Netflix.

That may seem extreme, but without net neutrality ,it would be completely legal. In the same situation, instead of being unable to access Netflix, people might only be able to watch half of the content. ISPs would have total control over what people can access.

At the same time, it means that if their ISP is competing with a streaming company that is a subsidiary of another ISP, Internet users would have slower access to that content. Therefore, in order to get full quality from a company that is a subsidiary of an ISP, they need to use that ISP.

On the other side of the issue, if someone wants to be a producer of content, ISPs could charge more to determine how fast people would be able to access this newly produced content. This has the potential to stop new websites from forming and severely hurt new online businesses.

This could lead to online monopolies. Currently Google is the leading search engine, with 3.3 billion searches per day.

“Every single day 15 percent of the questions people ask of Google are questions we’ve never seen before,” John Wiley, the lead designer for Google Search, said.

If companies are required to compete for speed, how would it be possible for any new search engine to be developed?

With over 100 billion searches per month, Google would have no problem competing.

At the same time, YouTube is the leading provider of user-made content with over a billion users, which makes up almost one-third of the people on the Internet.

In 2014, according to statistics released by YouTube, over 300 hours’ worth of new content was uploaded every minute. This number is up from the previous year’s upload rate of 100 hours per minute.

This means if someone wanted to watch every video on YouTube, for every minute they watched, they would fall 12 and a half days behind.

Posing the same question as before, if new websites need to compete for speed, how would it be possible for any new website to gain any traction?

Simply put, new websites would be difficult to create. It would no longer be feasible to attempt to create a competitor for an already established website.

Meaning that after 20 years of the Internet being commercially available, people might not be able to enjoy unfettered access that many take for granted.

This drastically affects anyone who uses the Internet on a regular basis.

If new producers of content lose access to the Internet, then consumers lose exposure to new ideas and applications that might be better and more beneficial than those currently in place.

Universities might be required to pay for access to a faster data lane and, as a consequence, might need to increase tuition so that students will be able to access the University’s websites without reduced speeds.

The bottom line is what is available on the Internet now might not be available in the near future without net neutrality.