Keep network neutrality

The future of Internet freedom and inexpensive Internet is at stake.

Ever since the Internet’s inception, its users have taken its content for granted. Sure, everyone pays one telephone, cable or Internet service provider something to have online access in their homes. But as far as what they have access to, the sky’s the limit as to whether a user wants to search on Google versus Yahoo, or shop on eBay versus Amazon.

But the telephone companies are pushing for that to change, bitter that wildly successful online companies such as Google do not have to pay them directly (those companies do pay to connect their servers and keep their Web sites going) for doing business and providing bandwidth-heavy services on the networks they provide.

Unfortunately, these changes, if put into action, could mean higher prices for Internet users. Downloading songs from iTunes could cost 5 cents to 10 cents more than they currently do; using services such as Google and Yahoo, before considered a privilege, might not be free. Most of these consequences will be determined by revisions to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which Congress probably will revisit and revise by sometime in 2007. Realistically, telephone and cable companies charging Internet giants will not affect their success. But smaller companies and struggling start-up operations would not be so fortunate. And passing along their costs to consumers will not help them succeed, not to mention that such changes will severely compromise the Internet’s characteristic freedom of speech perks. When Congress revisits the Telecommunications Act, it must consider the advantages of network neutrality ” not giving any one company priority on a network. Without network neutrality, consumers will be forced to choose their Internet providers based on which online companies those providers favor, but not all providers are available in all areas. The freedom of choice the Internet offers would be severely degraded.

Until the Telecommunications Act is updated, lobbyists on both sides of the issue will be out in full force. But Congress must address the issue from the standpoint of the public good and the idea behind what the Internet is meant to provide.