Don’t neuter the net

September 14, 2006

The Internet is not a dump truck—it’s a series of tubes.

At least, that’s how Senator Ted Stevens (R-AL) explained it this summer. While Stevens may have the technical expertise of your grandfather, his involvement in the web goes a little beyond that of the average senior citizen. As chairman of the Senate’s Telecommunications Committee, Stevens has the most authority in the Senate on network neutrality, a little discussed but critical issue.

Telecommunications companies have been pushing for the right to tax web sites and only provide higher speeds to those who pay dues. If we don’t speak out against them, they just might have their wish granted. It is critical that the United States Senate pass network neutrality legislation to block this, preserving the democratic features of the Internet that make it the indispensable tool it is today.

It’s a fact that everyone takes for granted—all web sites are created equal. Whether you want to shop for textbooks on Amazon.com or browse the whimsical fancies on The Voice’s blog, your Internet service provider (ISP) delivers the content lickety-split, no matter where it’s coming from.

Despite the immediate relevance to everyone who uses the Internet in this country, very few people actually understand what network neutrality means. The term refers to the level playing field that all websites are on:as it stands, your ISP treats all online information you want to view equally. However, if the telecom companies have their way, they’ll create a two-tiered system that gives higher speed to their own search engines and websites, along with commercial websites that can afford to pay a fee. Sites that can’t afford the fee are relegated to a secondary, much slower status.

Without network neutrality legislation, free exchange of information and ideas could become, in essence, commercially regulated.

This issue probably sounds like a no-brainer to Internet-dependent college students. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate doesn’t see things the same way. Despite the best efforts of the 24 senators who favor net neutrality, the Senate has yet to pass any legislation on the issue.

Contacting your senators and representatives on the issue can actually make a difference. Just recently, four senators announced their support for net neutrality largely because of constituent input. The direct impact that net neutrality legislation will have on our generation makes it vitally important that we become vocal about the issue. Support network neutrality—more is at stake than just Facebook, Wikipedia or Craigslist. The future of the Internet hangs in the balance.

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!

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