For a better Internet, keep ISPs in their place

Jeff Smith and Jeff Smith

Let’s say you’re writing a research paper late one night. You have one more page left to write and you know of a Web site that has a key piece of information that can wrap up your paper perfectly. So you open your Web browser and type the URL into the address bar. But when you hit the enter key to go to the Web site, the screen reads: “This Web site is unavailable.”

You think you may have entered the wrong address, so you type in Google’s address to search there. But once again, you get a message that the Web site can not be viewed. So why are you getting these messages? The answer is because you have the wrong Internet service provider. And this is why net neutrality needs to be protected.

Net neutrality is tricky to define because the term itself is more of an understood idea rather than written law. What net neutrality breaks down to is Internet service providers (such as AT’T and Time Warner) are to keep the Internet free and open without discrimination. This allows us to view any Web site and all at the same speed. Net neutrality in a nut shell is the way we view content on the Internet today.

However, service providers such as AT’T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner want to get rid of net neutrality. They want Web site owners to pay a fee in order to put their content on their server. This fee is different from the cost someone would pay to start up a Web site. This fee is what someone would have to pay just to have their Web site available on the Internet. For example if Google didn’t pay the fee to AT’T but did to Verizon, subscribers to AT’T’s Internet would experience very slow upload on Google or none at all.

Without net neutrality, small Internet businesses will be crippled. They will not have the funds to afford whatever fees service providers will charge while trying to stay competitive in the market. In addition, net neutrality has the possibility to create financial burdens for consumers as well. An example would be if Dell chose to pay a fee to ensure its Web site loaded faster or possibly block access to Mac’s Web site. Who do you think is going to make up for Mac’s losses? Because I’m willing to bet it’s not going to be cheap for Mac to guarantee its company is number one. I’m also willing to bet Mac isn’t going to take quarterly losses because it has to pay an Internet provider fee.

The problem of not having net neutrality goes far beyond the potential of small business and consumer losses or Web page loading. What these corporations would have the power to do is blatantly discriminate what content goes on their Internet service. As the Internet stands right now, any person can start a blog or a Web site and say whatever they want. Any person can upload a video to regardless of the content. However, without net neutrality, service providers can also block any content they don’t want on their server. This is a violation of the First Amendment, and it has already happened.

On Aug. 5 of this year, Pearl Jam headlined the Lollapalooza in Chicago. Their entire set was being streamed live that night by AT’T for free on the Internet. During the song “Daughter,” Pearl Jam segued into Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” The lead singer, Eddie Vedder, improvised lyrics referring to his feelings about George W. Bush. However, you would have only known that if you were there. Viewers on the Internet didn’t hear any of this – they only saw video of the crowd. AT’T stated it was a technical problem that caused the loss of audio. Conveniently, the audio resumed as soon as he was finished with his remarks. AT’T had been playing other performances all weekend long on the Internet. But the only time an audio glitch occurred was for 20 seconds after Eddie Vedder sang “George Bush, leave this world alone” (view the video for yourself at

However, the issue of net neutrality isn’t a left vs. right issue. Last year, the Christian Coalition, and Gun owners of America created a Web site called The Web site offers a more detailed explanation of what net neutrality is and how you can help protect it. This is an unheard issue that will directly affect everyone if we do not do something about it. Go to the Web site, read up on net neutrality, sign the petition and call your national representatives. If you don’t, the Web sites you visit may be gone tomorrow – unless you have the right provider, that is.