The internet has become so interwoven into the everyday lives of Americans that it’s easy to take it for granted. You use it to pay your bills, keep up with with friends, and schedule flights. It is directly or indirectly responsible for the creation of an enormous number of jobs in industries such as IT services, online retail, and data analysis and security, as well as providing opportunities for millions of people who are self-employed through their own online businesses. The Internet gives you almost instant access to any content you choose to seek out. But what if someone else had the power to control which web sites you could see? What if you had to pay just to access certain sites – in addition to paying for their services?
What Is an ISP?
Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, are the companies that supply you with access to the Internet, most commonly via Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), wireless broadband, or mobile service. As it stands now, what used to be known as the “world wide web” functions a bit like the typical amusement park: you pay once (or, in this case, a once monthly fee) to get in the gate, and then all of the attractions are free. While you may pay an individual web site for the service it offers – such as streaming video – you don’t pay for the privilege of “admission” to any area of cyberspace. And if you should decide to create a site of your own – for example, a blog or small online business – you have the same shot as everyone else when it comes to attracting visitors to your site.
What are ISPs Trying to Do?
If the ISPs have their way, they will be able to exert control over some of the most popular areas of cyberspace. Rather than giving you free access to what is available online, they would block certain content and make it available only to those who had paid an additional fee. The ISPs would target customers based on their Internet usage, creating fee plans specifically for gamers, social media fans, and others with specialized interests that can be narrowed down to a certain class of web sites. These sites would be off limits to anyone who didn’t pay to access them. Additionally, ISPs could block your access to any web site for which the provider has a competing service, and then charge you to use theirs instead.
What Net Neutrality Means for You
The term “net neutrality” means, essentially, that no one is able to manipulate your web browsing experience; the Internet itself remains neutral, free, and open to all. This technology is one of the greatest modern forums for the concept of freedom of speech on which this country was founded. If you want it to remain that way, support net neutrality.