My father, who is now in his fifties, is one of the smartest people I know. He is a dedicated computer scientist, on any given day you can see him working on four different monitors, and worked on one of the first cell phones to be commercially produced. He is a man of science and progress. Yet, he admitted to me one day about a year ago that he remember when the internet was first announced he didn’t think it would last more than a couple of months. The internet, to him, was just a passing fad that would eventually fade out into the background of forgettable human history. Yet, here we are, only a couple of decades later, a mere speck of dust on the timeline of Earth’s history, and net neutrality is one of the hottest topics of discussion.
Net neutrality, which I think I’m safe to say anyone 18 or older has at least heard mentioned in passing conversation, is widely known yet still somehow difficult to understand. At the beginning of this John Oliver monologue (1:07) John Oliver admits that while net neutrality is important to talk about, hearing people talk about it is like pulling teeth. I was graduating high school when net neutrality first became a hot topic and I still would not say I know enough to be an “expert” on the topic. A large part of that reason is that the people who are making the decisions surrounding net neutrality speak like the man in the John Oliver clip and the words start to sound like the teacher in a Peanut’s cartoon; they may as well be making nonsensical noises. Ironically, one of the only ways for the wide public to learn how to understand what these politicians are talking about is maintaining net neutrality so anyone from any background can have any access they would like on the internet to teach themselves what is being discussed. The internet, whether people want to admit it or not, is now a modern-day Library of Alexandria and like the ancient library, it could be ruined within a moment. Millions of people losing vast amounts of knowledge.
Although net neutrality can be a dividing topic, I think we can all agree that while we would like to think we use the internet to learn and grow ourselves as people, we mainly use it to watch cat videos and google random questions such as, “Who made Top Ramen?” However, like the freedom of speech, humans should have the basic right of freedom to learn and progress, and having access to the internet is vital for information.
Perhaps the most concerning, and frankly just downright scary, aspect of losing net neutrality is how the corporations with the most money can begin to use the loss of net neutrality to manipulate those with slower internet to use their services. In a “The Street” article written by Eric Reed, he writes, “Without net neutrality Myspace could have made a deal to double its connection speeds while cutting Facebook’s in half.” Without debating whether Myspace or Facebook is the better social media service, what is scary is that without net neutrality if Myspace had more money they would win with no competition. The loss of net neutrality means the loss of innovation and start-up companies being able to get their feet on the ground. Big corporations will only get bigger and greedier and governments and political parties will use that greed to start to push their own agenda and ideals onto people simply because they cannot have access to faster internet. The more net neutrality we lose, the more me lose the ability to form our own free opinions.