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Breaking Down the Equality in the American Internet

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On February 26th, 2015 the FCC on a 3-2 vote passed legislation approving Net Neutrality. Many American’s are unaware of this issue and even if they are they don’t fully understand how it affects them. Imagine a highway. The majority of vehicles are in one lane where they are forced to travel at a steady 35mph. On the same highway there is a second lane where vehicles can go up to 80mph for an extra fee. This lane also takes away some of the miles from the other lane, forcing drivers to a slower speed. This is essentially what net neutrality is looking to stop. Net neutrality was put in place to force all drivers to stay in that 35mph lane. In doing so they hoped to restrict companies from being able to buy advantages in internet speed so all consumers and companies would be at a level playing field. Sounds like a good idea right? It however has many repercussions, especially on expansion of business as well as technology. Without the option to expand one’s data capability some new age technological advances, such as self driving cars, will be unable to function as well as they could restricting their value both on the market and in supporting other advances. Since a large part of the United States economy revolves around the internet restrictions put in place to limit data usage for both individual users and companies will hinder the performance of individual businesses as well as stall technological advancements of the future leading to economic turmoil.

Rajeev Suri, the CEO of Nokia, believes net neutrality will lead to a hinderance on technological advancements. In an article posted on CNET, author Rich Trenholm discusses claims made by Suri at the Mobile World Congress. Suri states, “There are some services that simply require a different level of connectivity”. Suri followed this up by naming such technologies as the self driving car and healthcare communications saying that, “ “You need this differentiated quality of service” for such industries. Nokia is believed to be a potential juggernaut of the self driving car industry introducing some bias on this issue. Suri however is looking at this from a safety concern for those using his product as opposed to just the development of the product itself. By bringing up healthcare communications as well Suri looks to established an urgent concern for safety as a whole. Without the needed data to perform certain tasks quicker the risk for error increases dramatically. For example, in regards to the self driving car he states that, “You cannot prevent collisions if the data that can prevent them is still making its way through the network”. He believes that the only way to truly defend a person’s safety while in a new age technology, like the self driving car, is to be able to supply the data necessary to ensure that the technology will be able to make split second decisions. Without doing so could lead to the potential risk for error caused by a slow data connection. This slow data connection could be a one time glitch but could serve as a catalyst for long term consequences for the user, such as injury or even death. This short term benefit and long term consequences is another issue Suri implores internet users to think carefully about; especially since this may not be the last time net neutrality is further influenced by government action.

The article, “New Net Neutrality Rules By FCC Kicks Up Internet Storm: Here’s Why”, by Christian De Looper discusses how the net neutrality ruling by the FCC is only the first of many to follow. De Lopper writes that, “the vote does not represent the end of the net neutrality battle by a long shot. Even the FCC’s vote count illustrates the fact that the debate isn’t over, with three members voting in favor and two voting against the new rules”. Although the legislation has passed even the voting results represent a large disagreement on the issue. The FCC ruling also brings up many questions as to what will happen next. As stated later in the article, “The road ahead for net neutrality will be a long one. First, the rules will have to get a rubber stamp from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, something that could take as long as 120 days. The rules will then have to be published on the Federal Register for public comment”. De Looper bring up that the rules for the legislation still are not defined yet. He also writes that after this process of defining the rules has concluded that the legislation will then be able to be challenged in court, something “Verizon and AT&T” have already said they would do. Lasty he states that it is, “likely Congress will battle over the new regulations”, leading to even more debate of the rules and whether or not the legislation will need to be restructured or balanced against other legislation. Essentially De Looper is looking to establish that although net neutrality passed through the FCC it still has a long way to becoming law. This process to make it law could also spur many debates leading to further legislation to follow. Something billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban has already warned against.

While speaking on the Structure Show podcast, promoted by Gigaom, Mark Cuban illustrated the many reasons he believes net neutrality will do more to harm business and technology than it will good. He states that, “For all the years that we’ve been in the tech industry since we’ve been about 8 or 9 years old, the majority of tech companies did not get involved in DC”. He follows this up by saying that today, “everybody’s got a lobbyist, everybody’s involved, everybody’s got their opinion and I think it backfired on us”. Cuban believes that the debate over net neutrality will become a large scale issue influenced by outside sources and money that shouldn’t be involved. He states that, “and from my perspective, I like the way technology goes and I like the competition and I like the way things are going”. Cuban believes that net neutrality is currently a non issue. Business is thriving and new start ups are popping up all the time. He believes that technology is advancing and to change anything now would only set us further back as opposed to helping us move forward. One of the biggest concerns over how this will affect business is over security.

Cyber security has recently come to the forefront of internet concerns. With recent hacks of Target, Sony and Anthem many people are left wondering how safe the internet truly is. One writer argues that hacks will become more prevalent because of net neutrality. In an article posted on the Christian Science Monitor author Jaikumar Vijayan argues that net neutrality will further these issues. The article states, “Unless the FCC specifically dictates that ISPs must take specific measures to control bad traffic, net neutrality could slow down some of the progress providers have made ensuring a safer Internet”. Vijayan believes that without the capability to use extra data for other areas of a company’s website that they will choose to not put as much of an emphasis on their security. This of course, as Vijayan states, could be regulated by the FCC but would only lead to further issues around not only this legislation but others to follow. If company’s did choose to avoid the necessary security procedures it could lead to a culture of uncertainty, leading to less internet users as a whole and less sales for businesses. Although this belief exists many still argue that businesses could thrive because of net neutrality.

Although many companies believe that Net Neutrality will harm business some believe that it will actually help it. Christopher Jammet and Scott Singer, in their article “Why A Net Neutral World Means Innovation For All”, believe that net neutrality will actually lead to more innovation as opposed to less. They write, “net neutrality will offer entrepreneurs and startups unbridled freedom to innovate, at the same time it will challenge previously complacent ISPs to develop new business models and alternative revenue streams, requiring a greater commitment to innovation and resulting in greater industry advancements”. The pair believe that with net neutrality will come an urgency to evolve. This urgency will lead to more innovation because companies will have a motivation to improve. Both are businessman so their opinion does carry weight within this issue. However, if industry doesn’t evolve will net neutrality still be able to improve the landscape of business on the internet or drive it farther back? One company that is expected to benefit without much effort on their part is the video streaming service netflix.

Netflix is expected to dramatically improve both its revenue and service as a whole because of the net neutrality legislation. Paul Naveed of Insider Monkey discusses this in his article, “FCC Vote on Net Neutrality Is Great News for Netflix Inc (NFLX) and Its Fans (and Investors)”. Within the article Naveed writes, “Apparently internet service providers such as Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) have fast lanes, so if they were to be discriminatory they could slow down traffic to rip off video streaming companies such as Netflix”. It is a belief that internet providers have been practicing the internet highway image mentioned in the introduction of this essay. In doing so they take internet data from some users in order to allow others to operate on faster networks. The belief is also that with this data being taken away netflix’s video’s will often not stream properly leading to missed connections and inability to use the service. This could potentially lead to a loss of some customers frequently affected by this. With the emergence of net neutrality this becomes a non issue for netflix leading to better overall services and more customers. This in turn will also lead to higher revenues for the company. This however is just one company who is sure to benefit in a world of uncertainty for thousands of others.

Protest is an important part of not only American society but society on a global scale as well. In Kurt Andersen’s article, “Person of the Year 2011: The Protester” he builds upon this theory in naming protester’s as a whole the person of the year for Time Magazine in 2011. He writes within the article that, “Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means”. A person’s right to protest is justified as it involves the spreading of idea’s to other’s on how to handle a specific issue. Net neutrality is a new concept in which many still don’t fully understand. Although society as a whole is consumed within the internet most choose not to listen as legislation is brought up within the government to regulate it. This legislation that many still don’t fully understand could gravely alter the landscape in which business and technological advancements occur. Since a large amount of United States businesses operate at least partially through the internet regulations put up against it could lead to a decreased growth in expansion of not only the businesses themselves but the technology they are able to innovate leading to economic turmoil, setting society back as opposed to moving it forward.

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