Net Neutrality isn’t merely an ideal, but a principle of equal access. In an open internet, on a technology that affects people all over the world, internet service providers (ISPs) should treat data on the internet the same. They should not discriminate or charge users, splitting up the internet’s content, methods of communication, and platforms.
Without Net Neutrality, an ISP could influence what users see and how quickly they see it. Users already need ISPs to engage sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google. If ISPs are allowed to compete with each other, manipulating the speed and quality of content, and charging users different prices to access that content, they can deny access to certain sites, limit and censor information, based on who has enough money and who doesn’t. If they are allowed to filter the channels of communication to their interests, people will not have the same freedoms as before.
Smaller companies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs might fail to fulfill the demands that are imposed on them. Users may not be able to pay for all the content they want. Even the quality of the content will suffer for those without the resources to pay for it. ISPs could work to slow down competitors, block those competitors from reaching new users, while charging a higher cost for less service.
When looking into Net Neutrality, look at who has the leverage, the power, and who will mostly benefit. Will profit go to companies like Comcast and Verizon and AT&T, concentrations of power who can direct the internet toward their own interests? Will they design their own standards for others, manufacturing not only what users engage, but how they will engage, while limiting their choices? What will happen to those who are marginalized, poor, unable to afford the costs, but rely on Net Neutrality to organize or share information or express themselves? When lobbyists and politicians and major companies are profiting, those without power will suffer the most.