Keep the net neutral

By The Beacon | November 21, 2013 2:10am

By Logan Adams |

Net neutrality is an issue that has plagued regulatory agencies since the early 2000s.  Many corporations - most notably Comcast, Verizon, Netflix and Google - have battled in court, determining the future of the Internet.  However, net neutrality is an issue important to us all, as it could affect the way we access data we want online.

Those who support net neutrality subscribe to the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally.  Proponents believe that there should be no discrimination based on  what users are doing online. Companies that provide online services, like Netflix, support this stance because they want their customers to be able to access their content without their users or their data being slowed or blocked.

Others who oppose net neutrality include Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon.  These companies want to be able to give preference to customers providing them with faster download speeds and expanded access to their own services.  Often, Comcast and Verizon treat their own services in a way that does not count against a data cap for their subscribers.  This practice, which is not net neutral, is often criticized as Comcast and Verizon encouraging their customers to use their internal video applications instead of services that are capped or throttled such as Netflix.

The idea of discrimination against certain Internet traffic and the general fight over net neutrality are likely to continue to affect our access to the Internet.  This issue is becoming increasingly important to students who either live off-campus and purchase their own Internet, or to those who will soon become purchasers of Internet access.

Many speculate what the future of our Internet and our Internet providers might look like. Some argue that a situation could arise, if laws affirming net neutrality are not passed, where the possibility of accessing the Internet could become more like the way that one purchases cable TV.  In this model, access to a few “basic” websites would be provided, just like a basic cable package with the option to purchase additional websites.  But there would also be packages available to purchase other sets of websites.  There would be entertainment packages including Netflix and YouTube, search packages to include access to Google, and sports packages for ESPN and similar sites.

Some may like the idea of an Internet in which they can only purchase what they will use online and have access at a lower cost. But this directly goes against the idea of a connected Internet. Instead of being able to search for whatever we please, we may attempt to access a website only to be greeted by a message informing us that the website we want to visit is not within our Internet package, and that we would need to purchase it.

The practice of net neutrality is necessary and must continue to be upheld in order to prevent Internet service providers from prioritizing their own content and potentially fragmenting the remainder of the Internet.  Searching, browsing and discovering online would disappear if the Internet were distributed by channels and packages. Net neutrality must remain a commonplace so that all of us may utilize an open Internet.

Logan Adams is a junior electrical engineering major. He can be reached at