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Net neutrality

| Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In fifth grade, I first got into online gaming — one game in particular. It was a silly little thing where players built up their villages, worked with other players to create “tribes” and then fought with the other players. It was rather slow and decently simple, but I played it on and off for the next few years. My tribe had people from around the English speaking world, which helped in the real time game, and spent most of our time on the forums, playing games like “king of the hill” where we’d describe in detail our capture of “the hill” from each other, inevitably turned eventually into a “crater” when someone’s latest assault got a bit out of hand.

I thought of this game for the first time in ages last week when I heard that the Federal Communications Commission was set to get rid of some of the most important protections of “net neutrality.” This idea that all internet traffic should be treated the same has done much for us and prevents internet providers from interfering with the service they provide. For instance, under the regulatory framework in question, providers may not choose which sites and services their customers will have access to, nor intentionally speed up access to preferred sites and slow down access to those of competitors. Such principles are essential to protecting the internet as it is.

I say “essential,” but there are those who would disagree. Many of the websites and services that we use today are large enough to survive or even thrive in a world without net neutrality. Companies like Facebook, for instance, would negotiate deals with providers to continue to have access to customers, and services like Netflix might even get faster as internet companies prioritize traffic going towards the highest bidder.

However, we must remember that the internet is more than a single company. The websites, services and even culture of the internet all exist because of its uniquely open and level playing field. I’ll leave it to someone more qualified than I to discuss the economic impacts of this move, but suffice it to say that with the almost monopolistic power exercised by a handful of large companies would significantly raise the barriers to entry and thus slow down innovation.

It’s a little more personal for me. The internet is a weird, crazy, ridiculous, hilarious, toxic, infuriating and beautiful place. Even referring to a single “internet” is misleading, with communities forming around the most absurd hobbies and passions. Where else for instance can one find birds with arms alongside French blogs about Chinese satellites? These aspects of the internet don’t make or break people’s lives. People can get along without a small online community based around the board game Diplomacy or a silly little online village builder and it’s precisely these things that will be the first to go. I don’t want to see that happen. Maybe it’s selfish and maybe it’s just a little bit absurd but I want to keep the internet that I grew up with just a little bit longer.

Griffin Cannon is a junior studying Political Science from South Burlington, Vermont. The viewpoints expressed in this column are those of the individual and not necessarily those of BridgeND as an organization or of literally anybody aside from himself.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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  • warmupthediesel

    The internet was doing completely fine before the governmental overstepping of net neutrality. Reddit-brainwashed millenials can’t remember the good ol’ days.

    • Question Everything

      What would be a better system to currently provide internet to the American public?

      • warmupthediesel

        One without government regulation….

        • Question Everything

          Then what check, if any, would there be on ISP’s?

          • warmupthediesel

            I’m bored spoon-feeding the basics of the counter argument to you. Read up yourself here:

          • Question Everything

            Your insults undermine whatever point you are trying to make. Competition, as I understand it, would require a robust market and multiple tangible networks of cable/optics to provide internet access. From a civil engineering perspective, is such a layout of different network access points among competitors even feasible? Similarly, should we have competing networks of power grids or sewer lines?

          • warmupthediesel

            Did I call you a name or go after you personally? No. So you can take your “insult” back to where it came from: your imagination.

            Here’s another link…free of charge!
            “Theoretically, the FCC could also enforce “local loop unbundling,” which would force network operators to lease access to last mile infrastructure. In turn, this could bring a new set of competitors who would resell Internet service over the incumbents’ networks without having to lay their own wires throughout each city and town, similar to how the DSL market operated before the FCC removed the unbundling requirement in 2005.”

            For more: http://bfy.tw/FQlH

          • Question Everything

            Wouldn’t this FCC enforcement of “local loop unbundling” qualify as government regulation?