If you have been following any kind of digital news recently, you probably know about the net neutrality controversy. Net neutrality is an issue that has the potential to change the fundamental way in which the Internet is delivered. If you don't know much about net neutrality, however, you may not understand why the issue is such a big deal. What Is Net Neutrality? Essentially, net neutrality is the concept that everyone has equal access to the content on the Internet. When individuals or companies pay their Internet service providers (ISPs) for the right to access the Internet, they get complete access to the same Internet as everyone else. Any given website will load the same way on any computer or device that it is pulled up on, save for small differences due to varying platforms and connection speeds. Why Does It Matter? So what is the big deal about what seems like such a simple concept? As it currently stands, nothing. The problem is what might happen if net neutrality is taken away. In the United States, there is a relatively small number of companies with the capability to provide high-speed Internet access to the general public. If these ISPs get rid of net neutrality, they could have the ability to charge consumers extra money for access to certain websites. An easy way to think about this is a concept that the University of California at Berkeley calls "tiered Internet." Under the tiered Internet approach, ISPs would be able to give preferential speeds to organizations with the ability to pay for "fast lane" Internet access. Imagine having to pay extra money above and beyond your basic ISP plan to access certain big-name websites like YouTube, Netflix, or CNN. Paying fees for access to certain websites could be a very real situation if net neutrality is done away with. Not only could consumers be paying fees for access to these websites, ISPs could theoretically charge companies more to use the "fast lanes" that are required to deliver their content to users. This is a practice that Netflix and others have derisively labeled "double dipping," since ISPs could collect fees once from content providers and then again from their customers. Beyond the financial impact, many are pointing out that small startup companies without a lot of capital could be hindered by the elimination of net neutrality, since they will not have the money to pay for access to the fast lanes that bigger corporations would already be using. What Is The Latest News With Net Neutrality? In January, a federal court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the FCC had the right to regulate broadband providers, essentially giving the FCC the right to do away with net neutrality if they so desired. In May, the Federal Communications Commission began taking comments from Internet users on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which asks a range of questions about the best way to regulate broadband providers. It is too early to determine what the future of net neutrality is, but one thing is clear; many, from corporations to consumers to small businesses, will be watching and waiting to see how this future will affect their use of the Web. Perhaps The Biggest Question: Why Should Video Users Care? For large corporations with massive throughput and seemingly endless budgets for high-speed connectivity, the net neutrality discussion may seem well, irrelevant. However, for any and all video and data users that expect to be utilizing bandwidth to operate outside the walls of corporate connectivity need to beware that throttled throughput can and will impact the performance of everything you do; especially your video communications. Over the past several years we have enjoyed access to high-speed connectivity that has enabled video to become part of the everyday business and personal experience. If connectivity is limited too severely, the idea of using high definition video communication from the coffee shop or our home office may be nothing more than a thing of the past. How backward is that? The new laws are essentially pushing users who have come to know and love their high-speed bandwidth onto an island. A place where the adoption of old communication methods will become a requirement as the network won't be able to handle new visual methods of communication. Now is the time to pay attention and keep fighting against new Net Neutrality rules that will hurt businesses and individuals everywhere while all but eliminating innovative face-to-face communication over the web.
What Is Net Neutrality And Why Does It Matter?
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