The beauty of the Internet is its freedom. That’s what makes it work, that’s why most of us love it.
That freedom has two sides to it — the Internet is a beautiful place of knowledge and exchange of thoughts and ideas, but it is also a very dark place where the dregs of global society can flourish. That’s the price of unmitigated freedom of speech and expression. Humans will either rise to the heights that freedom offers or sink to the lowest lows. It’s a price I believe we must be willing to pay, and it’s essentially what’s at stake in the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal on rule changes regarding “net neutrality.”
Net neutrality means that “Internet service providers…should treat all online traffic running through their pipelines equally,” according to the Washington Post. The FCC has made signs that it will change its regulations in a vote on Thursday to allow companies to buy “fast lanes” for their services, giving large companies with deep pockets an advantage over small outfits in how quickly content reaches our devices, and thus ending the era of neutrality.
That’s the way markets work — if you have the capital and the stature, pretty much anything is possible. Providers should be obligated by law to carry all online traffic through to their customers, but the last thing we need is the FCC meddling in the specifics of how online content companies and providers do business with one another.
Anyone who has loaded a Netflix video on a high-speed connection recently knows content already travels blindingly fast. My son can tell me he wants to watch “Vroom-Vroom” with me, and in a few seconds we’re kicked back and watching Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May riding Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers through the jungles of Bolivia on Top Gear (that’s the UK version, mind you — not the awful farce of a show with unlikable American hosts that the History Channel put out a few years ago).
The transfer is almost instantaneous now, and it’s hard to imagine it getting perceptibly faster. What’s most important is that access to information, no matter how long the page takes to buffer, remains unimpeded.
Michael Gebelein is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.